SAN DIEGO — In military lingo, a “stand down” is a reprieve from battle, a time to rest and relax. But over one July weekend in San Diego, Stand Downis the name of a makeshift camp where homeless and near-homeless veterans can access basic necessities — clothes, a pair of glasses, medical attention — and enjoy comforts like a haircut or a massage. People who have attended say that real magic happens here.
The first Stand Down, organized by the Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD), took place in 1988 to serve Vietnam veterans and now welcomes three generations of homeless veterans. Since 2009, the number of homeless veterans has decreased from 75,609 to 62,619, but government reports and experts warn that this is merely a lull before the generation of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans join their elders from the Vietnam War on the nation’s sidewalks, shelters and highways.
Photo: Anthony Suau for Al Jazeera America