The 20th Annual Compton Veterans Stand Down, hosted by the Compton Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the City of Compton, provided a wealth of resources for former service members over the weekend.
“This means everything to this community,” said Dr. Lestean M. Johnson, who oversees the Compton Chamber of Commerce. “I drive these streets, every day, all day. Sometimes, I drive them at night, and to see all of the homeless people that’s on the streets and to see how they are in front of City Hall and on the benches, and to just to be able to service those, get them out of those elements and off the streets, if it is no more than three days, that’s what it means to the homeless community.”
After explaining the event’s side of tackling the homeless issue in the city, even if it is temporary, Johnson also talked about the numerous resources that come into play as well for veterans.
“The resources that come to a Stand Down of this nature is unthinkable,” Johnson quipped. “You have EDD to offer them what is needed to help them get jobs. You have the VA Claims (Veterans Administration) and disability to be able to get the veterans into the system…So we have a plethora of resources of that nature. And not to even mention the various businesses and nonprofits that actually come together. For this particular Stand Down, there were 81 vendors.”
Items provided to veterans included free haircuts, meals, overnight bedding if they needed it, clothing, shoes, and a plethora of other resources. Legal Aid was among the many vendors that came out to help veterans.
“This event is very helpful for the vets,” said Darren Thomas, a former U.S. Army service member. “They have lots of resources: clothing. I just got an eye exam. They provide showers. It’s a lot of things going on. This event is a very, very positive thing.”
Thomas, who served four years in the Army, is out on the streets. Homeless and engaged to get married, Thomas said the Compton Veterans Stand Down is the type of event that is so badly needed for individuals like himself.
“It’s important,” Thomas remarked. “I’m homeless. We don’t have any resources at the moment.”
On Saturday, Sept. 23, Assemblyman Mike Gipson, as well as members of the Compton City Council attended the event, which was billed to go on for three days.
“It is sad. It’s sad that our men and women who fought for this country, many who’ve laid their lives down for this country. But for those who can come back home, and they come back home and not have the services provided for them…There should not be one homeless vet in California that is unhoused,” Gipson said. “There should not be one veteran who served this country of ours should go lacking for nothing.”