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Stand Down 2016 by Janna Hitchcock

For the 5th year in a row, U.S.VETS has assisted literally hundreds of displaced veterans during the annual Stand Down event. With the help of our amazing team of AmeriCorps service members, we were able to enter data seamlessly and provide services to over 250 veterans.

The AmeriCorps members were instrumental in assisting the veterans not just with the help of entering the data, but also with one on one communication and making direct contact.

Day 1 team: Lex, Rita, Erinn, Jennifer, Kelley

Day 1 team: Lex, Rita, Erinn, Jennifer, Kelley

Day 2 team: Erika, Erinn, Janna, Justin, Marcus, Jake, and Lex

Day 2 team: Erika, Erinn, Janna, Justin, Marcus, Jake, and Lex

Sometimes, we get carried away with the processes, the legalities... and forget to see the person. We forget there is a face to the homeless. Homelessness is not a number entered in the computer. It is not a fact or a statistic. It’s the person standing next to you in the grocery line. It’s the person walking next to you in the mall or on the sidewalk.

Homelessness is a person. It has a face. It could be anyone. It could be you.

During this year’s Stand Down event, I witnessed first-hand the faces of homelessness. I witnessed our service men and women, for whatever reason, being put in a situation where they needed help. They just needed compassion, empathy, a smile, a safe place to sit down and eat some food. Dignity.

A day to feel normal.

The faces that come into the Stand Down are aged beyond their years. There is a sense hopelessness from not receiving the right kind of help, or maybe not knowing what help is out there.

At the Stand Down, that hopelessness turned to hope. I saw men and women standing upright with dignity after their haircut, shower, and getting to choose clean clothes. After they visited the court, legal issues were resolved for them, so they can now live without looking over their shoulder.

This is what AmeriCorps is all about: being able to truly understand that there is a human face, a human smile and a person behind the word “homelessness.”

Published on September 27, 2016 by Erika Stone.

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