A record 1,062 homeless men, women and children sought help at this year's Stand Down for military veterans. It started in San Diego 25 years ago. Now, more than 200 communities across the country put on a similar event. Organizers say one thing's apparent -- more vets from Iraq and Afghanistan are ending up on the streets.
Arturo, a veteran of the Marine Corps, overcame physical injuries, nightmares and life addicted to alcohol with help from the Veterans Village of San Diego. Their the same folks who put Stand Down on each year, giving homeless vets and even their families much needed access to medical, legal and housing assistance.
"I went through a lot of flashbacks and nightmares, I had a real hard time trying to sleep. I drank to pass out. Not to have fun, not to get drunk, not to socialize. I drank to pass out," Arturo said. Today he's one of the many veterans who've successfully completed the rehab program at VVSD and is now enrolled in college.
About 16,000 post-9/11 veterans are expected to call San Diego home in the next decade. That means a new wave of veterans suffering from PTSD and various addictions will be hitting the shores of San Diego.
"Our next goal is to build permanent housing for veterans seeking our assistance," Phil Landis said. He's a veteran of the Army and a Purple Heart recipient. As CEO of the Veterans Village, he envisioned a five-acre campus 12 years ago to house and counsel vets and it's finally coming to pass.
The latest addition includes a new auditorium where all 165 residents can gather and meet. And upstairs are 12 double occupancy bedrooms for women or post-9/11 vets. Landis said a third of his clients are in their 20s and he applauds the VA's goal to eliminate homelessness by 2015, but doesn't think its doable. He said we can learn a lot from past wars and their consequences.
"You're going to create a population of men and women who are disturbed by their experiences, that's not going to stop," he said.
Landis believes communities pulling together can solve the problem. Stand Down maybe a perfect example of that.