StandDown supplies a battery of services for homeless veterans

In the midst of last week’s heat wave, more than 1,000 homeless veterans and their families sought relief in air-conditioned tents pitched on the University’s West Bank.
But the seventh annual Minnesota StandDown offered these homeless veterans more than a chance recover from the heat this weekend.
In a town of tents erected Wednesday near the University’s Law School, volunteers provided the homeless medical, dental, psychological, legal and social services as well as food and shelter.
“I just like helping people,” said StandDown volunteer Jerry Schneider while serving pizza to the veterans. “I’m trying to give something back.”
A chaplain and a Native American sweat lodge were also available to help guide the veterans spiritually.
Stand-down is military terminology for a brief break in fighting to attend to personal needs, which organizers said was the goal of this weekend’s gathering.
“It’s peaceful here for me,” said a homeless U.S. Army veteran who didn’t want to be named.
Representatives from several social service agencies and Veterans Affairs also helped homeless veterans to apply for all benefits available to them.
Minnesota congressional representatives, including Reps. Bruce Vento and Martin Sabo, both Democrats, and Gil Gutknecht, a Republican, were also on hand to speak to the veterans.
In addition, with the assistance of University law students, a backlog of 170 misdemeanor court cases was cleared in a special court session held at the Law School.
The Law School building acted not only as a court of law for 95 veterans, but as a shelter from storms Friday night, which toppled two tents.
“We cover every need that we can think of,” said Minnesota StandDown spokesman Dick Carroll.
Since its inception, the StandDown has been held at the University.
“It’s an ideal location,” Carroll said. Many veterans know the area well, he said.
Carroll said the whole community joined together to help the veterans in need. Local business donated supplies or provided them at cost. The VA provided and served food all weekend. Other veterans’ organizations contributed money, time and supplies, supplemented by additional funding from other state and federal agencies.
Two other StandDowns will be held this year. In September, homeless veterans living in northern Minnesota will gather in Duluth; in October, veterans from central Minnesota will gather in St. Cloud.
“We can’t be a cure-all,” said Carroll, who was a U.S. Army Air Corps bomber pilot in War World II before being held as a prisoner of war for 11 months. “But we want to extend a hand to show them that other veterans care.”
— Staff Reporter Sean McCoy contributed to this article.