The East Bay Stand Down (EBSD) just wrapped up this past weekend at the Alameda County Fairground in Pleasanton, California. The term Stand Down is used during war to describe the practice of removing combat troops from the field and taking care of their basic needs in a safe area. Swords to Plowshares was one of the many community-based organizations represented at the four-day event which connected more than 600 Bay Area homeless and at-risk veterans to services including:
- VA HealthCare
- Mental Health services
- Emergency shelter
- Transitional and permanent housing
- ID/Drivers Licenses
- Court services and legal aid
- Showers and haircuts
- And a myriad of other services and resources
The Stand Down brought in veterans from across the greater nine-county Bay Area. Swords to Plowshares staff were able to meet with many veterans who were unfamiliar with the services we provide. The Stand Down was a great opportunity for staff to raise awareness of available services with new veterans who are homeless or at-risk for homelessness that we have not been able to engage with through our typical outreach region.
Our Outreach Team and Housing Program staff were on site for the duration of the Stand Down. Staff conducted over three dozen intakes and connected veterans to additional services and helped them find permanent housing that meets their needs. Swords to Plowshares SSVF Outreach Specialist, Dennis Johnson, said of the Stand Down, “Veterans are a community amongst themselves and the events like the Stand Down give our outreach team an opportunity to engage with the hardest veterans to serve in an environment that they feel comfortable and safe in. The comfort and safety provided by those working and volunteering at the Stand Down help us build that relationship with that veteran to ensure that they get connected to our services.”
Our Legal Team also had a significant presence at the Stand Down, where 6 Swords to Plowshares staff attorneys were assisted by more than 25 pro bono attorneys from Chevron, Salesforce, Orrick, Hanson-Bridgett, Gibson Dunn, Kilpatrick Townsend, Nixon, and Fenwick West, as well as two law students from Golden Gate University to provide on-site intake and legal counseling for VA benefits. Our Legal Team assisted nearly 60 veterans over the course of the four-day event, including approximately a dozen women veterans who received assistance from our cohort of women attorneys on-site at the women’s and children’s tent. “The Stand Down was a great opportunity for our pro bono volunteer attorneys to have one-on-one contact with veteran clients and it was a great opportunity for Swords staff to get out in the field to mentor the volunteers and engage with new veteran clients,” said Maureen Siedor, Staff Attorney and Pro Bono Coordinator at Swords to Plowshares.