William Charles Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Fri, 23 Sep 2005 03:06:22 -0400


Friday, September 23, 2005

'Stand Down' reaches out to help the homeless
By David Heitz

Dave Thompson hoped to find a lead on a job and eat a hot meal.
Bryan Karwath came looking for eyeglasses.
Daniel Caswell intended to finally get a photo identification.
Homeless people from all over the Quad-Cities sought nourishment, assistance
from social service agencies and a cold shower Thursday at the sixth annual
"Stand Down" for homeless veterans held at the QCCA Expo Center in Rock
"We focus on veterans but we don't turn anyone down," said Mike Malmstrom,
director of Bridging the Gap QCA, which sponsored the event. "We've got a
whole array of agencies here that people can touch base with. Maybe we can
get these folks back into society and back on the rolls.
"Some of these people will be on the streets for the winter, so now is the
time to get them some assistance."
Sarah Oliver, an outreach worker for the Veterans Administration, said she
expected as many as 125 people would seek shelter at Stand Down, which
continues today and concludes Saturday.
Oliver said veterans end up homeless for a variety of reasons.
"You ask any one of them and you're going to get a different story.
Sometimes it's an employment thing, sometimes it's an educational thing.
Sometimes a mental illness can be undiagnosed, and sometimes there's an
addiction problem," she said.
In addition to food and clothing, about 40 agencies provided Stand Down
attendees with haircuts, showers, medical attention, hearing and vision
testing, employment assistance, legal aid, housing advice and more.
Oliver said she has seen the number of homeless people served by the
Veterans Administration increase in recent years. "Some have had experiences
in the service that have had lasting effects. They have really good survival
skills for being out on the streets."
She also expected some hurricane victims to attend Stand Down. "I'm thinking
there's a possibility that we could be seeing some of these families."
Malmstrom said many homeless veterans have applied for disability assistance
through Social Security or the Veterans Administration and are waiting to
receive their benefits. "A lot of them have no income through the interim
whatsoever. They've got nothing to do and nowhere to go."
Thompson, who recently returned to his hometown of Rock Island after a
failed marriage, said he hopes to find employment at Stand Down. "I'm hoping
to meet some old friends and find a job. Maybe I'll run into somebody here
who will offer me one."
He said he has been hungry and was looking forward Thursday to a meat loaf
meal catered by Hy-Vee. He also picked up some socks, underwear and shoes at
the event. "This is an opportunity. You never know what you might find."
Karwath, who is staying in Moline, said he ended up down and out after being
laid off from his job. On top of that, his truck broke down. "I don't have
the money to repair it."
Caswell said he rides the rails to the Quad-Cities every winter from
Minnesota. "It's warmer here," the Army National Guard veteran said. "I need
something to eat and a good place to sleep. I've been sleeping in the woods.
"People have been stealing my sleeping bags and stuff like that."
People interested in attending Stand Down need to register by noon today to
receive services. "If these folks were to see these agencies one on one, it
could take three months," Malmstrom said. "Here, it's kind of a one-stop
The city desk can be contacted at
(563) 383-2245 or newsroom@qctimes.com.