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Wed, April 24

2015 Homeless Veteran Stand Down offers services to instill hope

PRESCOTT - U.S. Vets Initiative Operations Manager Skye Biasetti will never forget hearing the story of a veteran who ended up freezing to death in the forest after a relapse upon leaving the agency program.

Her despair over such a loss is why she is so grateful to Prescott's veteran-centric community that every year rallies around homeless and at-risk veterans with a bevy of services intended to help get them off the streets, or at least make them comfortable if they are not yet ready to accept housing assistance.

A lead organizer of the annual Homeless Veteran Stand Down, Biasetti said she is always awed by the generosity of the various veteran organizations, volunteers and others in the community who give of their time and expertise to help those who once defended this nation's freedom.

The 2015 Homeless Stand Down is planned for Sept. 18 and Sept. 19 at Frontier Village on Highway 89 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Some 50 businesses, non-profits, state and federal health and social service agencies assist veterans with such things as VA medical benefits, disability payments, affordable housing opportunities, substance abuse treatment, and legal help.

Legal consultations will be held on Saturday, Sept. 19. All those who wish to get such help must pre-register so the participating lawyers can access individual legal records, Biasetti said.

"It restores my faith in humanity every year," said Biasetti of the event that she has participated in for the last eight years.

Stand Down volunteer and former U.S. Marine sergeant Skip Rains said he and his wife, Naomi, appreciate the chance to help veterans who for whatever reasons end up without a place to call home. This event offers disadvantaged veterans the chance to once again "fit into society," he said.

A realist, Rains said he knows not every one of the estimated 300 homeless or at-risk veterans who come will leave the streets. But he said he likes knowing they've been given a chance to get some hot meals, a haircut, showers, as well as medical and dental checkups. All are given a new backpack full of warm clothes to help them survive the winter and personal hygiene kits, Rains said.

The Stand Down even supplies veterans with assistance for their pets.

"You go home at night and feel like, 'I did my job,'" said Rains, a member of the Mingus Mountain VFW Post 10227 that will supply volunteers and collect new T-shirts, underwear and blankets for the event.

The term "Stand Down" was intentionally selected because of its connection to "times of war," Biasetti explained.

At the battlefield, Stand Down referred to a place where combat troops could find safe haven.

Stand Down today is a national grass-roots, community-based intervention program designed to benefit the nation's estimated 130,000 homeless veterans.

In a letter to potential donors, Biasetti said this event allows weary and wary veterans a chance to be reconnected with services in their own community.

"A lot of veterans come to this event with many barriers to what you and I know of as normal life," Biasetti said of the program funded with a $10,000 federal grant and private donations. "Many have legal issues that prevent them from getting housing and jobs. Many have faced evictions and lack of income. They are in situations where they feel hopeless.

Stand Down brings back hope."

Anyone wishing to sign up as a service provider should contact Amanda LaPage at alapage@vetsresource.org. Anyone wishing to volunteer should contact Temmy Bowler at ccjopendoor@gmail.com

Follow Nanci Hutson on Twitter@HutsonNanci Reach her at 928-445-3333 Ext. 2041 or 928-642-6809

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