EAST ST. LOUIS — The Clyde C. Jordan Senior Center buzzed with activity as nearly 100 veterans bounced between tables offering free goods and services such as clothes, legal and medical advice and even haircuts.
The event is called a stand down — wartime terminology for when troops on the front line are moved back to rest and recharge, said event organizer Moses Holman.
“A civilian stand down is just helping veterans who may have lost their way or had some kind of trouble,” he said. “Those who find themselves homeless or drug addicted, or just in need of medical, economic or financial help back on a path to self-sustainment.”
Tuesday's stand down was the first in St. Clair County since 2007.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said Jerry Johnson, an Army veteran who served during peacetime. “These guys over here in East St. Louis needed it bad.”
The stand down in East St. Louis was the third one the St. Louis resident has attended. Johnson said these kinds of events are crucial for providing relevant information about programs and services that specifically exist for veterans.
“The stand down is important because a veteran can get off the street and get a job,” Johnson said. “I was once homeless, and this program got me housing.”
The East St. Louis event provided local vets with a wide range of services. Holman, a veterans outreach program specialist with the Illinois Department of Employment Security, said he tried to design the event to address all of the reasons he’s heard why someone cannot be self-sustaining.
That could mean just providing a warm coat to a homeless veteran ahead of winter, or more involved services. Moses explained they focus on getting homeless vets access to shelter and providing materials to obtain a job.
“A resume or a suit for an interview,” he said. “I try to eliminate at least one hurdle for them, if not all.”
Representatives from the Social Security Administration and the Illinois Secretary of State's Office were at the event to provide assistance for veterans who may need help getting a new ID, said Sarah Joshway, executive assistant to East St. Louis Mayor Robert Eastern III.
“A lot of little things that you might not think of when it comes to someone who is homeless and is needing that push to get back into the workforce,” Joshway said.
There were also groups providing medical and dental services, something many veterans forgo.
“Should no veteran be without teeth, and the majority of us in our 50s and 60s don’t have no teeth,” Johnson said.
Tuesday’s event may have been the first in more than a decade, but Holman hopes to see more of them in the future.
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