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18th Annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down Underway in Compton

COMPTON (CBSLA) - An event that has taken place for years in Compton is set to happen once again throughout Saturday. The Homeless Veterans Stand Down event began at 8 a.m. and was scheduled to last through 6 p.m., located at 700 Bullis Road in Compton.

Of the many amenities provided to the homeless veterans community, this year's shortlist contains one more option - COVID-19 vaccination.

On top of that, hot showers, clothing, sleeping bags, backpacks, food, haircuts and more will be available for the crowd of hundreds of people expected to meet at the 18th annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down event in Compton.

Breakfast, lunch and dinner are to be provided for all participants in the event, while the team will hand out various Christmas gifts, including gift cards to McDonald's and some grocery stores.

Information for housing, medical and legal purposes will be available for attendees.

Some organizers of the event spoke with CBS reporters to discuss the event, including Lestean Johnson with the Compton Chamber of Commerce. "It's important because first of all, we should 'reach one, teach one.' We have the homeless, and they're vets. These are people who have fought for our country, fought for our freedom. We have a philosophy that until all the homeless vets are off the street, we will continue to do this no matter what city we're in. It's important that we get our vets off the street."d

On the variety of services available at the event, Johnson highlighted a couple of specific groups, including HUD-VASH, one of the V.A.'s homeless programs that works to provide housing to those who need it.

"Today we have the DMV on site, they will actually be giving IDs, they'll take the picture and give them IDs, which is really important, because we can't find them. When homeless don't want to be found you can't find them," Johnson continued, "We have claims from the V.A., trying to get them into the system. If they get them into the V.A. system, some of them qualify for benefits. If we can get them benefits, we can get them out. ... A lot of non-profits always come together for this particular event. "

The event runs in association with the City of Compton, the Compton Chamber of Commerce, Volunteers of America - Los Angeles, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and Veterans Stand Together, a non-profit organization from Torrance whose mission is to combat homelessness in the veteran community.

It is estimated that of the 40,000 veterans nationwide, 10% of them live in the Los Angeles area. While the V.A. continues to fight to combat veteran homelessness, they have placed nearly 7,000 individuals in permanent housing with the use of vouchers.

However, there are still 1 million veterans at risk for homelessness in America, due to varying reasons, including post-traumatic stress disorder, social isolation, substance abuse and unemployment.

An approximate 10% of the United States homeless demographic is made up of veterans.

Charlie Lonon, fondly referred to as "Miss Charlie", the founder of the event years ago, said the event is still extremely important to her, telling reporters, "It's important to me because of the young people that were coming back from the service, and they didn't have a job. Not only that, they're homeless and we needed to do something for them. So, Stand Down was a good thing to do and we never leave anyone behind. We have to do what we have to do. Get them their benefits so they can get into the V.A. and get the services that they need."


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