“You’d be so lean, that blast of January
would blow through you.”
Shakespeare, The Winter’s Tale

It’s hard to imagine what it must be like to be homeless and on the street In January.

Regardless of the circumstances that bring Veterans and their families to living in cars and over the heating vents of the subway, it’s a fate that none of us would wish on anyone. And a problem that we all wish we could fix.

But there isn’t one easy solution. So we help when and where we can. That’s what Stand Downs are all about.Stand Down at Armory Park City of North Charleston

What is a Stand Down?

In times of war, exhausted combat units requiring time to rest and recover were removed from the battlefields to a place of relative security and safety. At secure base camp areas, troops were able to take care of personal hygiene, get clean uniforms, enjoy warm meals, receive medical and dental care, mail and receive letters, and enjoy the camaraderie of friends in a safe environment.

Today, Stand Down refers to a grassroots, community-based intervention program designed to help the nation’s homeless Veterans on any given night “combat” life on the streets.

Homeless Veterans are brought together in a single location for one to three days and are provided access to the community resources needed to begin addressing their individual problems and rebuilding their lives.

In the military, Stand Down afforded battle-weary soldiers the opportunity to renew their spirit, health and overall sense of well-being. Today’s Stand Down affords the same opportunity to homeless Veterans.

Stand Downs are typically one- to three-day events providing supplies and services to homeless Veterans, such as food, shelter, clothing, health screenings and VA Social Security benefits counseling.

Veterans can also receive referrals to other assistance such as health care, housing solutions, employment, substance use treatment and mental health counseling. They are collaborative events, coordinated between local VA Medical Centers, other government agencies and community-based homeless service providers.

Members of the Health Care for Homeless Veterans tea  and volunteers  at Lebanon VA Medical Center who held their Stand Down on  Jan. 20 in Harrisburg. (Thanks – Keisha Kerr)

Members of the Health Care for Homeless Veterans tea  and volunteers  at Lebanon VA Medical Center who held their Stand Down on  Jan. 20 in Harrisburg. (Thanks – Keisha Kerr)

A  Cleveland VA Medical Center Stand Down also took place on Jan. 20 at the Cleveland Public Auditorium. (Thanks – Reaver Nelson)

31 Years of Stand Downs in San Diego

VA San Diego Healthcare System will co-host the second North County Stand Down for Homeless Veterans and their dependent family members from Jan. 25 – 28, in Escondido. Read the full story

Over 70 Agencies at DC Stand Down

The Washington DC Veterans Affairs Medical Center is hosting a Stand Down this Saturday, January 27, from 9:00  to 2:00 at the Medical Center, 50 Irving Street NW, Washington, DC. Services will be offered from over 70 participating federal, state and community agencies.

What can I do?

This VA website is a great place to start to learn what you can do to help.

Here’s a list of Community Resource and Referral Centers which provide Veterans who are homeless and at risk of homelessness with one-stop access to community-based, multi-agency services to promote permanent housing, health and mental health care, career development and access to VA and non-VA benefits.

You could go to the website of your area VA medical center to see if they are holding a Stand Down. You could print out the information about

Dentist treating Veterans at Stand Down event

the event and hand it out to homeless Veterans you see on the street or sleeping under the bridge. Just ask: Are you a Veteran?

Hundreds of caring volunteers and professionals give of their time and expertise to address the unique needs of homeless veterans. Committees formed specifically to put on the event stage most Stand Downs. Veteran service organizations, National Guard and Reserve units, homeless shelter programs, health care providers, U.S. Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor staffs, Veteran-helping-Veteran programs, and concerned citizens from the community organize and stage the events.

Share this story

Published on Jan. 25, 2018

Estimated reading time is 3.4 min.

Views to date: 171


  1. Marie Hinojosa February 8, 2018 at 10:49 am

    I understand completely, My husband is a Veteran and since Hurricane Harvey. My family and I are still homeless. It’s extremely difficult and heartbreaking. I reached out to another state for help. Our situation had taken it’s toll. The VA has so many benefits to offer, but the wait and lack of communication is unbearable .Freedom is not free, I keep that close to my heart. God bless all who are enduring difficulties.

  2. Samantha crowley February 1, 2018 at 5:51 pm

    Totally support this. gotta protect vets

  3. Curtis Settles January 31, 2018 at 2:21 pm

    People that work at the VA at lease the one I go to has this attitude that they are there doing Vet’s a favor and they will tell them too. They walk around alday going back and forth to the cafateiria with coffie in their hand standing in the hall and when a wheel-chair comes along they won’t even move when a person say’s excuse me they get a look that could kill.

  4. Richard Johnson January 27, 2018 at 5:14 pm

    Assistance Requested expedited emergency Requested Assistance homeless with two Chihuahua Alert dogs: (redacted)
    Dr. David Shulkin and Sunny Pursue can solve my homelessness with three-way call…

Comments are closed.

More Stories

  • New genetic research discoveries may one day help doctors better screen Veterans at risk of suicide and prevent it in the first place.

  • A lack of public awareness about MST leaves gaps in our national discourse. Dispelling myths can help survivors know they are not alone and connect them to resources.

  • Virtual visits through the VA Video Connect app and VA apps can help Veterans manage their PTSD, depression and other mental health issues.