By Gina Yarbrough/San Diego County News
VISTA–Homeless veterans gathered at a north county ranch Thursday to receive services and much-needed help at this year’s third annual North County Veterans Stand Down.
The four-day event was held at the Green Oak Ranch in Vista. The RV park provided homeless veterans a safe, friendly, drug-free and secure environment, event organizers said.
Services received by the veterans included home cooked meals, clothing and footwear, vision, medical and legal care, lodging and job placement.
“We bring in homeless veterans from all over the county, mostly north county, but all of the county..we bring them in to provide them services,” said Matt Foster, president and chairman of North County Veterans Stand Down. “They are going to get housing services, employment services, and more importantly, immediate medical care, dental care, vision care and legal care.
Helping veterans is Foster’s passion. After he retired from the Marine Corps in 2010 as a Master Sergeant Aviation Maintenance Chief, with tours in Asia and Europe and three tours in Iraq, he volunteered to work with the veteran community.
Foster was recognized as the 2018 – 2019 San Diego County Veteran of the Year by the Veterans Museum at Balboa Park for his volunteer work, and contributions to the veteran community.
Veterans at the event met with a judge at the Homeless Court to address the issues of outstanding tickets, misdemeanor cases, and fines. Based upon their service, progress in the community, and access to services at Stand Down, the veterans were able to clear their records.
“The court does a detailed records check through the County of San Diego to pull all tickets and all misdemeanor cases that have fines outstanding, to clear the fines. Paving the way for them to get their driver license, to obtain employment, to get out of garnishments that are weighing them down,” said Attorney Terri Peters, of the County of San Diego Office of the Primary Public Defender. “It really cleans the slate of these folks that have really served our country. They have worked hard…trying to move forward.”
Tom Cowan, an Escondido resident, modeled North County Stand Down after the success of San Diego Stand Down, a 3 day, 2 night program that provides services for more than 800 homeless veterans and their families residing in the San Diego area.
Cowan saw a need to address the more than 80,000 homeless veterans in the north county. After speaking to veteran organizations and like-minded individuals, the non-profit North County Veterans Stand Down launched in 2017 at the Green Oak Ranch in Vista.
More than 300 homeless veterans have been helped through the nonprofit organization, and its partners, organizers said.
For more information on North County Stand Down, visit https://www.ncstanddown.org.