Stand Down helps veterans stand up

Kim Bell-Nelson couldn't thank the organizers of the annual Stand Down enough.

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Volunteers Benita Williams (left) and Lillie Anthony sort clothing to give to veterans at the Stand Down for homeless veterans.  Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Annette M. Drowlette/Staff
Volunteers Benita Williams (left) and Lillie Anthony sort clothing to give to veterans at the Stand Down for homeless veterans.

"There's a lot of stuff veterans are in need of so it means a lot to you when people do things like this," said Ms. Bell-Nelson, who was in the Army for 15 years. "Some people think that just because you're a vet, everything is handed to you.

"I'm glad they are thinking about us."

Ms. Bell-Nelson was among hundreds who went to Stand Down on Friday. It was held by the Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center at the Salvation Army.

Stand Down gives homeless veterans, and those who don't have a stable living situation, the opportunity to get clothing, toiletries and other necessities.

They were able to receive services from the medical center, the Public Health Department, the Department of Labor, veterans service organizations and other local social service agencies.

It was the 10th year it has been held locally, but it has been taking place throughout the country since 1988, said Kathleen Scott, the chief of the psychosocial residential rehabilitation treatment program and director of homeless initiatives for the medical center.

The first Stand Down for homeless veterans was held in San Diego. It was organized by a group of Vietnam veterans who modeled it after stand downs held in the field, Ms. Scott said.

"They would bring soldiers in from the field and give them a safe, secure place to stay, get their medical and social needs met, give them new clothes, feed them, and give them some entertainment," she said.

Though statistics show that the number of homeless veterans is going down, there are still many out there, Ms. Scott said.

There also are increases in the number of homeless female veterans and homeless veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Amanda Rehms, a senior at Greenbrier High School, has focused her senior project on homelessness in the area.

"When I'm out in the community I see a lot of people who are homeless, and I feel I can help make a difference, help make things better for them," the 18-year-old said.

She was among the volunteers present at the Stand Down.

"I'm volunteering with different organizations and finding out what the community is doing to help people who are homeless and what more can be done," she said.

She will present her project's findings in the spring, she said.

Reach Nikasha Dicks at (706) 823-3336 or nikasha.dicks@augustachronicle.com.


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