Hundreds of Oklahoma City veterans spend their nights on the streets, but many of them took steps towards a more stable life at the Sooner Stand Down on Friday.
Sixty agencies came together at the Homeless Alliance to help the local veterans in need, and the event is helping to alleviate one of the biggest barriers the servicemen and women face, transportation. The Sooner Stand Down provides everything from blankets and clothes to haircuts and housing opportunities.
Organizers say it take special effort to bring together people who are usually wary of crowds.
“They really appreciate and care for each other and take care of each other, so if they know there’s going to be someone here that has that same goal in mind, they’re more likely to come,” says Sooner Stand Down coordinator Christine Cleary.
Even veterans who have overcome their homelessness showed up to share their success stories, like Aline Marie Fey, who got housing through a partnership with HUD and the VA. She says, “I can’t say enough about the resources, but if you don’t know it’s there, then you’re without.”
Fey also got fitted for new dentures at the event inside the Oklahoma Dental Foundation’s Mobile Smiles bus, something that she has put off for nearly a decade.
News 9’s Jessi Mitchell asked, “In your list of struggles that you were dealing with, where did dental care fall on that list?” “The end of it!” Fey admitted.
Lack of dental hygiene is just one example of a problem that can lead to others when money is low.
Dental Foundation Executive Director John Wilguess says, “A lot of these folks have incredible pain which keeps them from eating, so nutrition becomes a real problem. Then they become sicker and sicker over time and then begin to access medical costs at hospitals.”
With around 200 veterans showing up to the Stand Down each year, organizers hope they help spread the word.
“There are many vets still out on the streets, when they could have all the stuff I have taken advantage of,” says formerly homeless Navy veteran Larry Dinwiddie.
If you missed this year’s Sooner Stand Down but still want to connect to the resources available to local veterans, click here.