by Liz Schlemmer
Vietnam veteran Rodney Ford walked away from the Bull City Stand Down last week with a sleeping roll, a rucksack of clothes and toiletries and information about Agent Orange exposure screenings.
The event was one of hundreds held across the country. In Durham, the Stand Down occurs every third Friday in September in honor of National POW/MIA Recognition Day. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs works with local partner organizations to put on the fair aimed at serving the needs of veterans, especially those who are homeless.
Ford is living on the floor in the home of another Marine veteran in Durham, putting him among nearly 50,000 veterans estimated to be homeless each night, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
In the concession stands of Durham County Memorial Stadium, barbers gave free haircuts and volunteers handed out sack lunches. The stadium’s locker room was open for showers.
A few dozen veterans stood in line to pick up backpacks filled with provisions. Any veteran who is homeless may receive a sleeping pad, blanket and heavy coat.
Booths at the Bull City Stand Down offered a range of aid – from legal services to housing to help refinancing a mortgage – but a large portion of the partner organizations were catering to veterans’ specific health needs.
Across the street from the stadium, the Durham National Guard Armory was packed with booths that addressed those needs.
Klint Floyd came for help in getting a driver’s license and a pair of glasses. At the Durham County Register of Deeds table, Floyd filled out a form to request his birth certificate, his first step in obtaining a license. Requests for locally archived certificates are free to veterans if the document is needed for other aid.
“The stand down is important because it brings a lot of services together and a lot of veterans in need, and you get it all at one place, at one time,” said former event chair Darryl Henick. “There are so many providers, and I thank all of them.”
The Bull City Stand Down is one of nearly 200 stand downs held annually across the country, including in Winston-Salem, Hickory, Salisbury, Fayetteville, Asheville, Havelock and New Bern.[box style=”0″]
Upcoming stand downs in North Carolina:
Raleigh: Oct. 16 at South Wilmington Street Center
Greensboro: Sept. 25, 8 a.m-3 p.m., at Westover Church
Greenville: Oct. 23, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., at Eppes Recreation Center[/box]