HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- Stand Down Together Huntsville Inc. is helping homeless veterans get back on their feet.
According to the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, on a single night in January 2018, over 37,800 veterans were homeless.
"Homeless veterans are two words that do not go together," says Joan Gray, the Stand Down Together Huntsville Inc. President. The CEO of Grateful Recovery, William Richardson agrees.
"Veterans should not go across the water, guns on their back, fighting for us, then come home and have nowhere to live," says Richardson. He has chosen to volunteer at Stand Down for Homeless Veterans because he can relate to the men and women living on the street.
"I was in front of the judge because I kept going to jail and he said, what's wrong with you and I said, I don't know," says Richardson.
While he was still in Madison County Jail, he received a GED. Once out of jail, he went back to school and studied to get two associate degrees, a bachelor's degree, and a master's degree. He is now working toward his doctorate and is the CEO of non-profit Grateful Recovery. He says a big contribution to homelessness is mental illness.
"People say bless your heart, they never say bless your brain," says Richardson. "Your brain is what controls everything. When we get our brain under control, we can control all the other aspects of our life." The first step is seeking help.
"We have our freedom because of their sacrifices so I want them for three days to feel safe, to feel warm, to be fed, and more than anything to be heard," says Gray.
For three days straight, Stand Down Together Huntsville Inc. is providing homeless veterans with a place to sleep, three warm meals a day, entertainment, and complimentary hair cuts and wellness checks. The help doesn't end at the end of the weekend. Gray says when they leave, they receive a duffel bag that will have a sleeping bag, clothing, food, and other amenities.
This was the first-ever Stand Down for Homeless Veterans event, but Stand Down Together Huntsville Inc. plans to make it an annual event, each year in October.
"Stand Down" lasts from Friday, October. 18 until Sunday, October 20 at the Jaycee Community Building in Huntsville. There are resources to help people find jobs and education, along with a place to sleep and warm food to eat. All homeless veterans are invited, but an I.D. is required.