Organizers of the annual Delaware Veterans Stand Down event are trying to help the estimated 700 homeless veterans in the Diamond State become familiar with the housing, social services and other benefits available to them.
This is the fourth year for the event in Dover, organizers said.
Veterans Stand Down originated in San Diego in the late 1960s, where many homeless veterans had located. It had since grown to a nationwide, grassroots, intervention program designed to help the nation's estimated 172,000 homeless veterans combat life on the streets.
Organizers are scheduled to deploy vans and buses to pick up veterans from locations in New Castle, Kent and Sussex counties and bring them to American Legion Post No. 2 in Dover on Friday, Oct. 5, said Delaware Stand Down spokesman Joe Donofrio.
During the Stand Down, veterans will receive all kinds of help, from haircuts and dental work, to housing and even jobs, said Donofrio, of Smyrna.
There will even be child support counseling since Delaware Stand Down has learned that some veterans became homeless because they could not afford child support payments, Delaware Stand Down Executive Director Liz Byers-Jiron said.
"The sad thing is that they won't reach out for help," said Executive Director Liz Byers-Jiron, of Greenwood. "So, we reach out to them. And some veterans will not come out of the woods even when you tell them, look at what you're entitled to."
Fellow Stand Down volunteer Roe Donofrio, Joe's wife, speculated that several veterans were content to remain homeless because they had been rebuffed so many times before.
"They're afraid to get pushed back against the wall or knocked down again," she said. "You have to take them by the hand and say, you can do this. With the veterans coming back from Afghanistan, it's only going to get worse."
Byers-Jiron's husband, Bill Jiron, said homeless veterans could be found sitting out in the woods, Laundromats and in the doorways of businesses.
"Whatever's open — that's where they'll be staying," he said.
That made it all the more important to organize a central event that would tell veterans what benefits they were entitled, too.
And the term veteran is defined as anyone who served in the military, not just those sent overseas to war, he said.
Veterans' issues are close to the organizers. Joe Donofrio is a veteran of the U.S. Army. Jiron is a U.S. Air Force veteran. Byers-Jiron, for her part, was a civilian employee for the U.S. Navy.
"It takes a concentrated effort by a lot of people," Joe Donofrio said.
Organizations and agencies scheduled to participate in the Stand Down include the Delaware Department of Labor and all state agencies that deal with veteran's issues, the Wilmington VA Hospital, the Food Bank of Delaware and several other nonprofit organizations.
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WHAT Delaware's 2012 Veterans' Stand Down
MISSION "Assist all Delaware veterans to achieve independence and self-sufficiency through access to information and services"
WHEN 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5
WHERE American Legion Post No. 2, 835 Bay Road, Dover
CONTACT (302) 349-4898 or (302) 653-6181