One of Brad Long’s first orders of business this weekend was getting a free haircut. Next, the 52-year old homeless Navy veteran, who currently lives in transitional housing for disabled vets in Santa Ana, was getting his teeth checked and eating free chow. Mainly, he was enjoying the fellowship of others who’ve served their country before falling on hard times.
A host of services were available to homeless veterans and their families at the 2nd Orange County Stand Down, held at the Army Reserve Center on Newport Boulevard. Veterans and their families could receive medical care, legal advice, housing and employment assistance and substance-abuse and mental-health resources. Such amenities as massages and acupuncture were also available. “The outreach to the veterans is genuine,” said Long, who served in Attack Squadron 52 on the U.S.S. Kitty Hawk off the coast of Iran in 1979-80. “I see a lot of love for the people who served that I didn’t really see on the streets … I plan on staying here the whole weekend.”
The event is hosted by Veteran’s First, a county based nonprofit that offers services to homeless men and women who served. California is home to the highest number of the nation’s military veterans. But unfortunately, the state also has the most homeless veterans – an estimated 3,000 in Orange County alone. For that reason, Veterans First decided to organize a Stand Down event in O.C. last year. Other Stand Down events have been taking place around the country for decades. “The goal is to get them here and get them the services they need.”