In times of war, exhausted combat units requiring time to rest and recover were removed from the battlefields to a place of relative security and safety. Today, Stand Down refers to a community-based intervention program designed to help the nation’s estimated 200,000 homeless veterans and their families “combat” life on the streets.
Stand Down began as the dream of Robert Van Keuren, then the executive director of the Veterans Village of San Diego, and Jon Nachison, Ph.D., clinical director. Concerned about the increasing numbers of homeless veterans coming to VVSD for services in the mid-1980s, Van Keuren remembered Stand Down, a respite he and his military unit were given after being particularly hard hit in Cambodia during the Vietnam war.
He decided to create a Stand Down for homeless veterans and integrate, at one site, veteran services which were scattered throughout San Diego County.
In 1995, “A Step-By-Step Procedural Manual” was published by the Vietnam Veterans of San Diego Stand Down. The document describes a Stand Down as follows:
Stand Down is a belief in the triumph of the human spirit over extraordinary odds. It grows out of a conviction that the overwhelming number of homeless veterans on the streets of America is unacceptable, and that the veteran community itself must respond.
Stand Down is an intervention that was conceived from the ground up specifically for veterans. It is designed to transform the despair and immobility of homelessness into the momentum necessary to get into recovery, to resolve legal issues, to seek employment, to access health services and benefits, to reconnect with the community and to get off the street.
The mission and vision haven’t changed, but have been expanded by the Five Seasons Stand Down to include homeless and near-homeless veterans and non-veterans.