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Three gray concrete handball court walls on San Diego High School’s athletic field surround fold-out tables and chairs. Desert military camouflage netting shelters them from the sun. The flag of the United States anchors one corner; The State of California’s the other. The defendants appearing before this outdoor Homeless Court are veterans who live outdoors on the streets of San Diego, but for three days they are sheltered in tents, and receive employment counseling, housing referrals, medical care, mental health, and other social services. The Vietnam Veterans of San Diego, sponsors of Stand Down, began sponsoring this temporary tent city in 1988 to relieve the isolation of homeless veterans while assisting their reentry into society. The annual event provides comprehensive services for homeless veterans, including employment, housing, medical, legal (civil and criminal), physical and mental health treatment, and numerous social services. But Stand Down is more than a collection of services. The sponsors concentrate on building community and developing the strengths of the participants as members of the community. At the conclusion of the first Stand Down in 1988, 116 of 500 homeless veterans said their greatest need was to resolve outstanding criminal cases. Homeless veterans of San Diego inspired the misdemeanor criminal court to leave the courthouse and join the Stand Down effort by holding a special session for homeless veterans at the handball courts. (Authors)
Federal Probation
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A program of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services