'It's going to decrease the number of veterans on the street'

Faced with the challenge of helping homeless and at-risk veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Department of New Jersey’s Employment and Education Commission came up with a plan: take the annual “stand downs” to the veterans.

“The three previous years the Atlantic City Regional Stand Down has happened, veterans have been bused into us, where now we’re bringing everything to them,” Patrick Carney, outreach specialist at the Wilmington (Del.) VA Medical Center, said during the stand down on Oct. 28.

“Because of the pandemic, we needed to find a new way to serve homeless veterans and at-risk veterans, and that’s where the mobile stand down was born,” Carney said. “It is bringing services from the VA, from our community organizations, from The American Legion, Red Cross, Catholic Charities, all the big veterans service providers, bringing them to one place and sticking them inside of a community, where it’s us coming to the veteran as opposed to the veteran having to come to us.”

The calendar of stand downs has also expanded in order to reach more at-risk veterans, especially important in a time of social distancing.

Upcoming mobile stand downs include:

• Nov. 13, Rio Mall, 3801 Rte. 9 S, Rio Grande, N.J., 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• Nov. 23, VFW Post 6063, 210 Court House Lane, Toms River, N.J., 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• December events in Glassboro and Bridgeton.

More mobile stand downs are in the plans for 2021, as well.

“It’s going to decrease the number of veterans on the street,” Carney said.

Bob Looby, the Department of New Jersey’s employment and education chairman, said the stand downs are important “because The American Legion is here to serve veterans and military.”

“We should not leave anybody behind,” he said.