The fastest growing group of U.S. military veterans in need of a little help are post-9/11 vets and a San Diego-based program is doing its part to offer that assistance.
On Friday, Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD) held its 27th Annual National Stand Down for Homeless Veterans event. Volunteers gathered at San Diego High School to provide services to hundreds of former military service members who live on the streets.
The outreach event began with breakfast and coffee. With more than 100 agencies present and providing help, vets were then offered showers, barbers, medical care, dental care and clothing. Other services included picture IDs for those who needed them, counseling services, chaplain services, shelter information and access to 12-step meetings.
Many of those veterans in need of a hand up are young, and the military has been their only career.
“I just turned 18 when I got into the Army. Since I’ve been an adult that’s all I’ve known,” said Quai Wentt, whose career as an officer in the Army ended this year.
Wentt said it has taken some time to figure out what she wants to do next.
Thanks to one of the many agencies partaking in the Stand Out event, Wentt is getting the support she needs to move forward in the civilian world.
Rick Ochocki of the Veterans Village of San Diego said the recession has been very hard on young veterans.
“[These are] men and women who have been working for eight to 10 years and are discharged into a civilian economy that maybe isn't ready to absorb them,” he explained.
Wentt, who is a psychology major, is taking the steps to build a new life. She has clear aspirations for her future.
“I want to do research on mental health disorders and the biological mechanisms behind that and I think that is a way I can give back,” she said.
San Diego’s Stand Down event runs through Sunday.