Veterans’ resource fair in need of 80 volunteers

A nonprofit is in need of at least 80 volunteers to help homeless veterans at the 2019 Veterans Stand Down on March 13-14.

“We are desperately in need of volunteers this year. We have been doing this event for years, and we help hundreds of veterans every year. It is sad to think that there are that many homeless veterans out there in need of services, but there are,” said Deb Martinez-Garibay, a retired combat Army veteran and volunteer coordinator of the upcoming resource fair.

The two-day event is sponsored by Tucson Veterans Serving Veterans, the largest nonprofit organization in the city dedicated to serving veterans directly.

Veterans Stand Down is open to all veterans, including National Guard and reservists, and offers more than 80 resource providers to assist with a wide range of services, including: mental-health and religious counseling; substance-abuse counseling and treatment referrals; assistance with employment searches, résumé writing, job-training referrals and vocational rehabilitation; disability claims and benefits applications; assistance with legal matters; and pet vaccinations and spay/neuter vouchers. Additionally, the event offers basic needs such as hot meals, clothing, haircuts, first aid and minor medical treatment, and housing options.

Ultimately, the intent is to provide shelter for homeless veterans for a few nights while they are connected with Veterans Administration services and other community resources, said Martinez-Garibay.

“This is an opportunity to bring these veterans in and give them a break because the streets are really hard. It is hard to get back on your feet when you are sleeping in tent cities or in your car or under a bridge on the streets.

“We want to try to connect them to whatever they need to get themselves back on track,” said Martinez-Garibay.

Veterans can become homeless for a variety of reasons, according Martinez-Garibay. She said contributing factors often include medical conditions and post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We often see people who come off of active duty, then go home, and their injuries may take time to surface.

“Sometimes these injuries keep them from going back to their old civilian employers or finding new jobs, and there is a huge gap from when people come off of active duty to when they can receive their benefits from the Veterans Administration. I personally know five people who have lost their homes for that reason,” she said.

Martinez-Garibay said when veterans have been financially devastated and left homeless, Stand Down can provide a lifeline.

“Every single year we have success stories of people who come in, and in one day they get a place to stay and get connected with transitional housing or an apartment.

“Then they get a job and the next year they come back and help us at the event,” she said.

This year, organizers are in dire need of volunteers to assist with event setup and activities such as sorting clothing, serving food, directing traffic, security and clean-up. Sign-ups are available online by emailing Martinez-Garibay at dmartinez.garibay@gmail.com.

Martinez-Garibay said she hopes individuals of all ages, families, as well as civic groups and church groups, will be inspired to help. She said whether volunteers have a few hours, or an entire day or longer to dedicate to the cause, their help will be invaluable.

“I think that veterans don’t serve or go to war because they need accolades or someone to pat them on their backs, but some people feel a sense of gratitude for our service and this is one way they can give back,” Martinez-Garibay said.

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