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FARMINGTON — The gymnasium at San Juan College’s Health and Human Performance Center echoed with conversation as volunteers moved tables in preparation for the 4th annual San Juan County Homeless Veterans Stand Down.

Beverly Charley, veterans service officer at New Mexico Department of Veterans’ Services, said the primary focus of Friday's stand down is to help homeless veterans or those on the verge of being homeless. However, but the event is open to the public.

The term “stand down” was popularized during the Vietnam War when soldiers took a temporary safe haven to rest before returning to combat.
Among the services offered at the event, which is from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., are flu vaccinations, haircuts, dental and hygiene items and help applying for or receiving veterans benefits, housing, employment and behavioral health.
“They get someone to look at their teeth. They get someone to help them with a free haircut. They get to be themselves that day,” Charley said.
Each year at least 30 programs and agencies participate in the event with an average of 65 veterans attending, she said.
Last year 23 homeless veterans and 125 non-veterans who were homeless received assistance from the event, she added.
“We don’t want nobody to fall through the cracks,” Charley said.
At tables staffed by the Salvation Army, an assortment of men’s T-shirts, dress shirts, jeans, jackets and sweaters were stacked.
Sandra Liebel, social services director for the relief agency, said the gently used clothing was donated by the community.
“We went through everything. There’s not a stain, there’s not a rip, there’s not a button missing, there’s nothing. These are perfect, perfect clothes,” Liebel said.
Because of the number of participants expected to attend, clothing will be limited to two pants, two T-shirts, two long sleeve shirts, a jacket and a pair of shoes per person.
Other supplies, like socks and underwear, will be donated by other organizations.
If participants cannot find suitable clothing, they will receive a voucher to use at the Salvation Army Thrift Store, Liebel said.

Bill Simkins, a volunteer from Cross Roads Community Church, said the church is providing two vans that will travel throughout the city and transport individuals to the event.
“So far, it’s been a big success for the years we’ve done it. It gives people who need help an avenue to get help, it they want it,” Simkins said.
Noel Lyn Smith covers the Navajo Nation for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4636.

IF YOU GO

What: The 4th annual San Juan County Homeless Veterans Stand Down
When: 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., today
Where: San Juan College’s Health and Human Performance Center gymnasium, 4601 College Blvd.
Cost: Free

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