LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE - EL SEGUNDO, Calif. --
Webster's New World College Dictionary, Fifth Edition defines stand-down
as either a noun or transitive verb to denote a state of rest or ease after a state of alert or readiness. For three days in December, just before the holidays, the pace of events in downtown Los Angeles were anything but relaxed for a dedicated group of Space and Missile Systems Center personnel intent on helping former brothers- and sisters-in-arms in need.
In what was billed as the largest "stand down" for homeless military veterans and their families to ever take place in the country, more than 65 volunteers from SMC joined service providers from federal, state, city and county governments as well as local nonprofit partners from across Los Angeles County and the South Bay Dec. 19-21 at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
The three-day event saw dozens of service providers from the public and private sectors assist vets with everything from housing and employment assistance to a variety of VA services to dental and other medical and wellness services. SMC personnel provided over 400 volunteer hours during the stand down. The active duty, civilians and contractors came from Los Angeles Air Force Base to help set up the event, hand out food and clothing and participate in the opening ceremony.
"There's something special about helping your own. Although I can't relate with their struggles, we do share one thing in common....we all raised our right hand and vowed to support and defend the Constitution. 'Homeless' and 'Veterans' shouldn't be in the same sentence," said Maj. Dex Landreth, Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle Mission Integration chief with SMC's Launch Systems Enterprise Directorate. "It pulls at the heart strings when you see the numbers of over 5,000 homeless veterans in the Los Angeles area. I'm extremely proud to help out with the Los Angeles Veterans Stand Down."
According to the U.S. Vets website regarding the second annual L.A. Vets Stand Down, Los Angeles has the largest population of homeless military veterans in the nation living on the streets. Homeless vets account for nearly 20 percent of the people living on the streets and in shelters in Los Angeles. For a low-income veteran and family, attaining and maintaining affordable, stable housing is no easy achievement in the City of Angels. The overall cost of living in L.A. is 36 percent above the national average, with housing costs among the top 10 most expensive in the nation.
"No man or women who have served our country, particularly in combat, should be sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles," said Landreth, who in 2009, was selected to attend a nine-month civic leadership fellowship called Leadership L.A.
"The fellowship was geared towards individuals with a strong commitment for civic leadership and engagement within the city of Los Angeles. At the end of the of the nine-month fellowship, the expectation is to either sit on a non-profit/philanthropic board, become an appointed or elected official, and ultimately shape policies that influence the quality of life for all Californians," Landreth explained.
"It was during the fellowship that brought me to the attention of United States Veterans Initiatives, or U.S. Vets, a private non-profit organization that provides housing, employment, and counseling to our nation's veterans. With 21 residential sites and nine service centers in 14 cities across six states, it's the nation's largest nonprofit provider of comprehensive services to homeless and at-risk veterans.
"It started with a simple email to Stephen Peck, CEO of U.S. Vets and son of Academy award-winning actor Gregory Peck. He immediately responded to my desire to contribute to the organization and brought me to the Inglewood facility and introduced me to Ivan Mason, the executive director of U.S. Vets Inglewood. From that time on, I was elected to their Advisory Board and have participated in numerous volunteer events and solicited volunteers from SMC to support the fight against homeless veterans."
According to Landreth, President Obama and the Department of Veteran Affairs set a national goal of ending veteran homelessness. In July, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a U.S. Navy Reserve officer, signed on to the President's Challenge and committed to ending veteran homelessness.
"As the second largest U.S. city, Los Angeles is a leader in solving community issues and with Mayor Garcetti and the City Council's backing, the stand down will be an invaluable tool in reaching this important goal," said Landreth.
For more information on how to meet the President's Challenge of ending homelessness among veterans, visit the U.S. Vets website at www.usvetsinc.org
or contact Maj. Landreth at (310) 653-3022 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org