East Bay Stand Down for Vets

Article excerpt

Eradicate Homelessness, Enable New Opportunities

PLEASANTON1 Calif. - The rising sun burns off the cool Bay Area fog while bringing the August heat with each passing minute. A line forms inside the Alameda County Fairgrounds, where a beat of hearty laughs and generous gabble can be heard. Before John Morgan, a homeless veteran, can join the group, he is intercepted by Soldiers armed with clipboards and boxes.

In order for him to gain access and join the more than 400 East Bay Stand Down participants, he is told he must turn over his worldly possessions. In Morgan's case, he needed some extra assurance that his one worldly possession, a Chihuahua named Lady, would be well cared for.

Once inside, Morgan, along with all of the participants, was given access to showers, clothing, and a haircut. A hot meal, legai counsel, and medical care were also part of this four -day event designed to bring homeless veterans and resources together in one place.

Part of the support provided was made possible by the Innovative Readiness Training program, which allows Reserve Soldiers to maintain their military job specialties while serving communities that need their particular skill.

In this instance, the Army Reserve Medical Command's Western Medical Area Readiness Support Group (WE-MARSG) provided care that would otherwise have been virtually inaccessible. The Army Reserve Soldiers served the homeless veterans through the IRT program in many ways. Medics from WE-MARSG assembled 45 tents in three days prior to the Stand Down before they began taking the veterans' vital information and providing them with dental, mental, and general health care as well as physical therapy,

"We take a brief history, we review their vital signs, their medications they have with them, and we make sure the information is channeled back to the medical provider," said Capt. Charlene Richardson, an Army Reserve Soldier with the WE-MARSG. She believes the training will leave a lasring impression on the Soldiers as well as the participants. "I think a lot of the time we forget that we do have veterans out there who don't have a place to stay," she said, "I am very pleased and I am proud to be in this uniform and proud to be here."

The military presence "makes it feel like a real military operation that is the positive part of a lot of these peoples' lives," said Bart Buechner, executive board member of East Bay Stand Down. …