Pro Bono Profiles: Salesforce Helps At-Risk Veterans with Legal Services
The East Bay Stand Down is an event that takes place every two years, and its goal is straightforward — to reach at-risk veterans. This last East Bay Stand Down, I was able to volunteer as part of the Salesforce Pro Bono Legal Initiative with lawyers from Swords to Plowshares on September 15, 2016. Stand Downs were named in Vietnam as a time for combat troops to get creature comforts attended to, such as showering and having a good meal. The term is used today to describe a weekend where displaced veterans receive the help of agencies and volunteers in one place. The first East Bay Stand Down was held in 1999. This year, the East Bay Stand Down took place at the Alameda County Fairgrounds with the help of thousands of volunteers from many different organizations and corporations.
Over 600 pre-screened and pre-approved veterans were brought to a pop-up tent village where they lived for a three-day weekend event. They were fed and able to sleep there and most importantly – were able to take advantage of a variety of social services.
Swords to Plowshares was one of the many community-based organizations represented at the four-day event which connected more than 600 Bay Area homeless and at-risk veterans to services including: VA HealthCare, dental and mental health issues, clothing, meals, showers and a myriad of other services and resources.
The Stand Down brought in veterans from across the greater nine-county Bay Area. Swords to Plowshares staff were able to meet with many veterans who were unfamiliar with the services we provide. The Stand Down was a great opportunity for staff to raise awareness of available services with new veterans who are homeless or at-risk for homelessness that we have not been able to engage with through our typical outreach region.
Swords to Plowshares staff conducted over three dozen intakes and connected veterans to additional services and helped them find permanent housing that meets their needs. Swords to Plowshares SSVF Outreach Specialist, Dennis Johnson, said of the Stand Down, “Veterans are a community amongst themselves and the events like the Stand Down give our outreach team an opportunity to engage with the hardest veterans to serve in an environment that they feel comfortable and safe in. The comfort and safety provided by those working and volunteering at the Stand Down help us build that relationship with that veteran to ensure that they get connected to our services.”
While volunteering at the Stand Down, my colleague and I were able to see several veterans, who ranged from Marines to Army vets in service during Korea, Iraq and Afghanistan. Salesforce lawyers were part of a team of more than 30 lawyers on site taking part in shifts to help with legal issues.
“The Stand Down was a great opportunity for our pro bono volunteer attorneys to have one-on-one contact with veteran clients and it was a great opportunity for Swords staff to get out in the field to mentor the volunteers and engage with new veteran clients,” said Maureen Siedor, Staff Attorney and Pro Bono Coordinator at Swords to Plowshares.
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