It’s an all too common sight—a homeless person on the side of the road with a sign saying, ‘Veteran. Please Help.’ Other than the occasional handout from a passing driver, who’s really helping these veterans? Some are wounded or disabled, others hungry and moneyless, and still others struggling with mental illness or substance abuse problems, yet no matter how well trained or how many battles they’ve already fought, some just can’t do it alone. The Veteran’s Integration Center (VIC) offers assistance for these veterans during the annual Stand Down & Project Hands Up.

The VIC, whose administrative arm recently moved into a space at Four Hills Village, teamed up with the N.M. Department of Workforce Solutions, N.M. Department of Veterans’ Services, the VA Medical Center and other federal, state, local and non-profit organizations to provide assistance to homeless veterans during this year’s Stand Down. The Stand Down will be at the Rock at Noonday in Albuquerque, October 15 & 16.

Jessica DeLuna, administrative assistant at VIC, said some of the different participating organizations include New Mexico Legal Aid, Albuquerque Health Care for the Homeless, and the Veterans Administration. She said she didn’t know if any of the the organizations are from the East Mountain, Moriarty, or Edgewood areas, but said the list is long.

The goal of the event is to assist veterans in need of housing and shelter, employment services, physical and emotional help, legal assistance, substance abuse support, and to provide the tools needed to help fight the “enemies” homeless veterans face each day on the street.

According to the VIC’s website, “Battling these enemies on a daily basis creates a self-destructive cycle leading to complete withdrawal from mainstream American society.” The Stand Downs are a way to help veterans fight these enemies collectively while giving them a way to regain “their dignity and self-respect” by offering a hand up, and not a hand-out. The VIC website shows a total of 973 homeless individuals were served during last year’s Stand Down, with 323 of those being veterans. The first day of this year’s Stand Down is slotted for veterans only, while on Friday non-veterans may also seek assistance.

Two similar Stand Downs were held earlier this month, one in Gallup and another in San Juan, while another is scheduled to take place in Santa Fe Nov. 13. Albuquerque’s event will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Oct. 15-16.

For veterans in the East Mountain, Edgewood, or Moriarty areas in need of transportation, DeLuna said if enough people are in need of a ride the VIC may be able to help. Call 505-296-0800 to inquire about transportation services. Those interested in volunteering at the Stand Down can call Wendy or Kyle at 265-0512 for more information.

Leota Harriman
Leota Harriman

Leota started working for The Independent in 2006, working her way up through the ranks. An employee buyout in 2010 led to her ownership of the newspaper. Leota has served on the board of the N.M. Press Association, and is currently its First Vice President. She is passionate about health and wellness, especially mental health, and loves making art. She can be reached at [email protected]