veterans 2020 Maricopa StandDown|Photo by Camaron Stevenson

Here’s what happened at the 19th annual Maricopa StandDown event, which provides critical services to Arizona veterans.

Starting Thursday, more than 2,000 veterans currently experiencing homelessness or housing instability attended the 2020 Maricopa StandDown event at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix. 

The two-day event, coordinated by the Arizona Veterans StandDown Alliance (AVSA), provided access to crucial services such as housing assistance, medical aid, and on-site court assistance, the Arizona Housing Coalition said in a press release. 

“StandDown seeks to offer a hand up to former members of the military in the valley who now battle homelessness, housing insecurity, and barriers to housing and employment,” stated the release.

The Maricopa County StandDown originally started in 2001 with 400 veterans and increased to more than 2,000 annually. It is the largest resource event of its kind in the nation.

Over 125 service providers were onsite through Friday, and services included:

  • VA medical staff
  • Denture fittings and coordinated dental services
  • Employment opportunities from multiple organizations
  • Multiple housing programs
  • Social Security Administration Office
  • Municipal and Superior Courts
  • Full service Motor Vehicle Division office on-site
  • Animal Veterinary Services

In addition to these services, Central Arizona Dental Society Mission of Mercy offered in-office dental care to hundreds of veterans, and registered them with StandDown’s dental services program. Dental is consistently ranked as one of the top needs among homeless veterans, the press release noted.

In regards to housing, Shane Groen, chief programs officer for Arizona Veterans StandDown Alliance, said the agency has shortened the time it takes to get someone from the streets into housing.

We have a rapid-response system, rental assistance intervention,” he said. “We’ve made a lot of progress and prevented a lot of people from becoming homeless.”

Overall, for these veterans, the connections veterans make at the annual event, which started in 2001, can change their lives, said Joan Serviss, executive director for the Arizona Housing Coalition. 

“We are here to remove barriers, help people get through red tape, and get on with their lives,” she said.

For some of this week’s attendees, that’s exactly what they need. Here’s what a few had to say to Copper Courier.

“I’m coming up on nine months sober, and a big part of it is because I have a roof over my head,” said Robert, a Navy veteran who now volunteers at StandDown after receiving housing assistance at last year’s event.

John, an Air Force veteran, added, “If I had to do this on my own, I’d never have made it.”

James, a Navy veteran volunteer at the event, said, “You can’t force things on people who have been on the streets so long. Making everything available like this lets them get help on their own terms.”

In addition to providing critical services, the Arizona Housing Coalition stated the event is also a way to increase the community’s awareness of the plights of the American veteran struggling to make ends meet.