Johnson City Stand Down serves a new high number of veterans at risk

Sue Guinn Legg • Updated Oct 8, 2016 at 5:15 PM

More than 170 at risk veterans and more than 50 area health and human service agencies with resources to help them converged in downtown Johnson City Friday in the fourth annual Veterans Stand Down at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church.

Coordinated by the Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homeless, the event included a morning employment workshop and afternoon job fair with 14 actively hiring employers and the mobile Tennessee Career Coach, a resource fair in the church gymnasium, free health screenings and dental and eye exams, free legal counseling and other complimentary gifts and services.

Fashioned in the style of traditional military stand down, in which combat soldiers are taken behind the lines for medical care, rest and rejuvenation, the stand down has been attended by more than 150 veterans annually, and this year drew a record crowd.

Curtis, a 60-year-old former Marine whose service in Vietnam included the evacuation of the U.S. Embassy at Saigon, arrived at the event early Friday morning with three fellow residents of a VA per diem shelter program in Pikeville, Kentucky.

Curtis left the Stand Down late Friday afternoon with two new pairs of glasses. “I’d been walking around for weeks with a pair of glasses with only one lens. Today I got two new pairs.

“It’s a very good thing, helpful, with everything in one location for homeless veterans,” he said. “They treated me awfully good today.”

David Shields, a community employment specialist at Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Mountain Home, said a record 174 veterans received services at Friday’s Stand Down, along with a complimentary barbecue lunch, clothing, shoes, coats, a small stash of military sleeping bags and outdoor gear, goodie bags, tarps and backpacks loaded with personal care items, socks, toboggans and other helpful gifts.

According to ARCH, the underlying goal of the Stand Down was to provide supplies and services to help end homelessness among veterans and to help veterans who are at risk avoid becoming homeless.

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