Wheaton event offers assistance to veterans in need

Veterans in need are being urged to attend an event next week at the DuPage County Fairgrounds where they can get job and legal assistance and receive free food, clothing, haircuts and medical exams.

The event, Homeless Veterans Stand Down, is intended to serve veterans from DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will counties. It will run from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday at 2015 Manchester Road in Wheaton.

Mike Barbour, a veterans advocate for Naperville Township who helped organize this year's event, said it's geared toward homeless veterans and veterans at risk of becoming homeless.

"These are just veterans who for whatever the reason, be it medical, be it mental, just need some extra help, and we as a country have to help veterans," he said.

The name Stand Down comes from a term used after battles in the Vietnam War, when U.S. soldiers had a chance to temporarily go off-duty in a safe haven where they could catch up on sleep. Now, there are hundreds of Stand Down events across the country that aim to provide homeless veterans with a respite for a day or two.

Last year, the DuPage event was sponsored by Catholic Charities, the Midwest Shelter for Homeless Veterans, the YWCA and Hines VA Homeless Veterans Program. It spanned two days, offering the veterans a place to sleep and five meals.

Barbour said only a few of the more than 70 veterans served at the event stayed the night, so organizers decided to scale it back to one day this year.

"This year we're expecting more because of the feedback we've been getting, the people we've been sending information out to," he said. "These veterans have been seeking help. We know there's a lot of people out there that are very close to being homeless."

Proof of service is required to receive services. Veterans are being asked to bring a photo ID and DD Form 214 if possible, but representatives from the Veterans Benefits Administration will be on hand to look up service records.

Registration will be open from 9 a.m. to noon. Transportation will be provided from the Wheaton train station and by the Kane and Will County Veterans Assistance Commissions. Services that will be provided include dental care, legal assistance, haircuts, information on jobs and housing options, and other practical supports.

"Whatever the average person needs is what these guys are going get," Barbour said. "It will help these veterans to get back on their feet. We want them to become self-sustaining Americans and, with the help of the VA and all these organizations, that's possible."

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Hundreds of Stand Down events take place annually across the country to help veterans in need. Homeless veterans and vets at risk of becoming homeless from DuPage, Kane, Kendall and Will counties are being urged to attend the Homeless Veterans Stand Down Wednesday at the DuPage County Fairgrounds in Wheaton. Courtesy of Vernon Hills Police Department
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