20 Nov Org Focus Friday: The Seattle Stand Down
The Seattle Stand Down was founded as a response to the growing number of Veterans experiencing homelessness on the streets of Seattle and the Puget Sound region. Their mission is to serve vets experiencing homelessness, to prevent Veteran homelessness, and to build community amongst Veterans in our region. The Seattle Stand Down got its start as a service project in 2010, after Veteran students at Seattle Central Community College had noted an increase in homelessness in the neighborhood and sought to create an event to provide resources and support. What began as a resource fair soon grew into an independent nonprofit organization that hosts resource fairs and other programs to connect Veterans experiencing homelessness and housing instability to supportive services and community.
The Seattle Stand Down was an organization founded by Veterans, for Veterans. And today, most folks who continue to support The Stand Down are veterans. This sense of community is vital to addressing Veteran homelessness because of the common experience and common language. In the military, there is an ethos that is drilled into you – you have each other’s backs at all cost. The sense of camaraderie is inseparable from service itself. Oftentimes, people will even go into the military seeking that camaraderie and sense of connection; during their service, they are a part of something that is so much bigger than themselves. However, when folks come out of the military, the transition to civilian life can be enormously challenging for many; no one is taught how to be a civilian. When they leave the military, the sense of intimate camaraderie suddenly disappears, which can make addressing their visible and invisible wounds all the more difficult. An additional barrier that often works against healing is the internalization of a military environment and culture that frankly does not look kindly on seeking help for mental health, which might often lead Veterans to hide their struggles or medicate their suffering through substances.
For Veterans experiencing homelessness, living on the streets is like being on the battlefield. And another tenet of military culture is that soldiers never leave a fallen comrade. That’s why the folks that support the Seattle Stand Down are so connected to the mission of the organization, as many Veterans often leave the service with immense visible or invisible wounds. Homelessness is unfortunately often one of those wounds, and as a result, there is an astronomically high rate of suicide amongst veterans. Part of the mission at Seattle Stand Down is to reduce that rate. Service is not only important for those experiencing homelssness, but for housed Veterans too. For Veterans who remain engaged in community and not isolated, they’re reducing the chances by 50% that they’ll die by suicide.
The Seattle Stand Down currently hosts an annual two-day resource fair that serves over 450 Veterans. Folks who attend the event get access to a multitude of essential resources. There is a heavy focus on housing, ensuring that folks get connected with Veteran specific housing. They also focus heavily on legal support by partnering with the NW Justice Project and some other private local law firms who can help folks with legal issues on the spot, or set up future appointments. Employment opportunities are present, connecting folks with trade programs, resume development skills, and other programs that offer job skills. And of course there is a medical area too. A lot of the Veterans are already connected to the VA, but there is a doctor on site to do simple check-ups, flu shots, and more, as well as a public health nurse present to provide foot care, which is so vital to folks experiencing homelessness. Dental care is also made available through partnerships that bring out mobile vans, because most Veterans do not receive dental care from the VA.
In addition to the annual two-day event, the Seattle Stand Down offers a number of other supportive programs designed to connect with veterans experiencing homelessness or housing instability. They offer year-round outreach on a one-on-one basis, as well as work with other organizations to distribute emergency packs, boots, socks, and flashlights. They also educate the community about veteran culture, breakdown stereotypes and stigma about the Veteran community, and bring more awareness to the invisible wounds of war.
How can people get involved to support?
There are a number of ways that someone can get involved to support the Seattle Stand Down:
Donations: Having flexible spending is imperative to being able to offer services that are desired by the clients being served. You can donate HERE.
Social Media: Follow their Facebook page, where they’ll announce the need for volunteers.
Volunteer: At the two-day event and more, there is always a need for volunteers. Whatever the volunteers want to offer and can offer is needed to continue building this community. Click HERE to inquire about volunteering.
Educate Yourself: Try not to perpetuate stereotypes and myths, whether about veterans or homelessness in general.