(COLORADO SPRINGS) — El Paso County is home to the largest percentage of veterans living in Colorado. The County’s Homeless Veterans Coalition has tracked an increase of 150 homeless veterans in the last six to eight months.
“For a lot of these folks, it’s just a matter of needing that little hand up, not necessarily a handout,” said Brian Wess, Chairman of the El Paso County Homeless Veterans Coalition.
“Stand Down” is a term remembered from the Vietnam War when those serving were brought in from the field for relaxation, rest, and resupply.
“A chance to kind of recuperate and rejuvenate before they headed back out, we see this as the same kind of event,” Wess said.
Veterans had the opportunity to gather supplies in preparation for the approaching Rocky Mountain winter months. Among 70 stations, those experiencing homelessness got a new look.
“We have a conversation,” said Matthew Savala, owner of Art of Fades. “We make them feel better, we compliment them, we relate with them.”
Among those supporting homeless veterans are those currently serving in the military.
“It’s been extremely fulfilling to be apart of this,” said Cindy Delgado, a member of the U.S. Air Force.
Once a year veterans benefit from the event, but for Delgado, it’s a chance to feel closer to her dad who is a veteran.
“Most people don’t know, but my dad was once homeless,” Delgado said, “He was embarrassed to tell us about it, and so I found out it was resources like this that were helping him out a lot.”
Delgado’s father passed while homeless in Colorado.
“It’s almost like every homeless person that I meet, it’s like they could have possibly known my dad,” Delgado said.
The event offering veterans a little extra hand up is supported by the group’s new transitional housing initiative.
“We’ve got over a 90% success rate with that program,” Wess said.
At the annual Stand Down for Homeless Veterans event, 10 to 14 families are selected for a 30-day program to put them back on track.
Local veterans looking for help can apply for the group’s homeless prevention program year-round.