By Jordan Dsilva
Dignity is the biggest collateral damage of homelessness. It can be lost in a moment and take a lifetime to regain. Homeless veterans face this issue very heavily as they strive to rebuild their lives while coping with issues from their time in active duty.
On Friday, I attended an event combating this struggle called “Sooner Stand Down”; a roundup of all the needs that homeless veterans might be facing from haircuts to dental screening to employee and to legal assistance.
The event, hosted by the Homeless Alliance, started early Friday morning at 6:30 am, with 100 or more veterans eating breakfast and then heading over to register for the services they need most. The rooms hosting the housing opportunities were filled to the brim as were the areas hosting the employment and vocational training, but perhaps the greatest areas of need were treated outside.
Was it fate or just perfect timing? At approximately 9:30 am, it began to rain pretty heavily. People hurried under the awning. Before attempting to save themselves from the torrential downfall, the Red Cross Disaster Relief Vehicle pulled up and started serving hot cups of coffee. As I was standing under the awning, taking the coincidental imagery in, I looked over to my right and saw a man who had the expression of happy child on Christmas morning.
This man named Brad came over to get coffee, and I ended up striking a conversation with him. I asked him about his excited expression, and he told me just how much this event meant to him saying, “I was able to get housing for the first time in ten years last year, and this year I was given a chance to apply for employment, I am just so very grateful. “
The joyous Brad thought I was inquiring for services as well and encouraged me He said, “This is a great event. You should really take advantage of all things offered here. They can really, really help you out.”
I took his unsolicited advice as a truthful testimony to what “Sooner Stand Down” had provided for him. His words told the story of a veteran giving a chance at housing and long-term employment, but his face told me the joy of being recognized as a human again. His dignity had been restored.