The 31st annual Stand Down event opened its doors Friday to hundreds of homeless and needy military veterans. The three-day event is a one-stop self-help station on a field next San Diego High School hosted by the Veterans Village of San Diego.
One of the most popular features is a makeshift courtroom set up with the San Diego County Superior Court. Public defenders and judges volunteer their time to help veterans settle legal issues and court cases.
“It is so difficult for so many people to make it into court,” public defender André Bollinger said.
U.S. Army veteran John Brainard, who’s lived on and off the streets for the last decade, is one such person.
“It’s marvelous that they would take the time to do that,” he said.
A spokeswoman with VVSD said the public defenders at Stand Down last year saved veterans $103,000 by successfully representing them in the makeshift courtroom, which is situated on racquetball courts near the school.
Bollinger said it saves taxpayers money and makes communities safer in the long run.
“It’s an incredible cost to our community to have law enforcement tracking down people on citations and pretty minor things,” he said. “Our officers and sheriffs should be out in the community keeping us safe, not dealing with tickets and you know, ‘We’re you on the trolley.’”
Public defenders met with dozens of clients Friday. A judge will begin hearing cases Saturday morning.
“It feels great,” Bollinger said. “It feels so great to be able to give back.”