[Hpn] Report on Colorado Springs Stand-down

HOBOMATT@aol.com HOBOMATT@aol.com
Sat, 01 Sep 2001 10:11:15 -0400 (EDT)


This captures quite well how the stand-down went three days ago. We served 
around 100 vets (about 15-20 non-vets were allowed to eat, shower and take 
clothing). Definitely a success. Ms. Gonzales writes a "community interest" 
column in our daily paper. 
Matt Parkhouse, RN;
Colorado Springs, CO 

<<Lou Gonzales: Stand Down for veterans offers step in right direction 

Maybe it was the pile of just-cut gray hair on the floor that got to me.

Or the surreal scene of empty-handed, scruffy homeless guys going in one door 
and clean-shaven men in new camouflage fatigues coming out the other.

Those images at the Homeless Veterans Stand Down on Wednesday at the City 
Auditorium downtown were hard for me to understand.

This is the third year the El Paso County Homeless Veterans Coalition has 
organized a one-day blitz where homeless veterans can take a hot shower, get 
a haircut, pick up a sleeping bag, get some clean clothes and maybe find a 
pair of used shoes.

Some homeless veterans who showed signed up for long-unclaimed veterans 
benefits. Most had jobs that didn’t pay enough to cover rent.

Some talked with counselors or chaplains for the first time. Almost everyone 
picked up free bus tokens and a phone card to call home. A hundred or so Air 
Force volunteers helped fill out paperwork or ate lunch with them.

At first the event seemed impractical to me. The volunteers outnumbered the 
homeless veterans three-to-one. Despite all the willing help, the homeless 
veteran population here remains steady at about 350, according to the 
coalition.

But any reservations I had were erased after talking with Loren Grigsby, a 
tall, lean man with a voice soft and measured.

He said when he walked into the first Stand Down he had already been living 
in a survival tent for two winters.

He didn’t want to talk about 1968 in Vietnam except to say he had to put what 
happened there behind him.

And he wasn’t sure Vietnam had anything to do with the paranoid schizophrenia 
that made keeping a steady job as a machinist impossible.

He did know one thing. He was lost until a veteran at the first Stand Down 
helped him ignore the voices in his head and got him to the VA Hospital in 
Denver.

He’s proud that he’s lived in the same home for almost two years.

So Grigsby pays that kindness forward.

On Wednesday he manned the showers and pointed men toward Victor Lopez, 71, a 
retired barber and veteran. Almost every head of hair Lopez cut that morning 
was peppered with gray.

That’s because 80 percent of the homeless veterans who come to stand downs 
are older than 50. Most fought in Vietnam. And some were women.

Most were easy to talk with, the volunteers found.

Once the homeless had a chance to clean up, it was hard to pick them out from 
the members of the veterans groups who were trying to help. The two groups 
seemed to have a lot in common.

Senior Master Sergeant Karen Robinson, a supervisor at the Air Force Academy 
hospital, noticed that, too. 

“Seeing the women here, that’s especially hard,” Robinson said, as she eyed 
a blonde woman veteran with a scarred face.

Because, she said, they’re “just like us.” >>