Not enough guests were signing up for the North County Veterans Stand Down that had been scheduled for the weekend of April 15— so organizers have postponed it until September. The reason? Fear of COVID.
Matt Foster, president of the event, told The Times-Advocate that it will be held September 16-19. “We did it because of feedback from our guests. They didn’t want to get the coronavirus. We were ready to go but not enough were signing up.”
To serve those who were interested in the services offered at the Stand Down, there will probably be one-day versions during the summer.
They had been working with the County on safety protocols that they needed to hold an event of that kind and scope, for several hundred guests. “We got three hundred Johnson & Johnson one-shot vaccines lined up but they just weren’t signing up,” said Foster.
A significant percentage of the veterans who attend the annual Stand Down are homeless or living a precarious existence on someone’s couch or parked in someone’s parking lot. Many of them are, in Foster’s words, “hiding out,” in fear of COVID. “They don’t want to get sick,” he said. “A guy was parking in a church parking lot and said he might lose his place [if he left to attend the three day event.]”
He explained, “Having dealt with homeless people—they don’t think the way we do. We had a lot of veterans who wanted to show up and for them we will do a couple of one day stand downs during the summer.” An example of a service that will be offered at the one-day event would be dental care donated by a local dentists.
At least one of the events will be held in Escondido, Foster said, at a date and location to be announced. There is an urgency this year to have something, he said, because San Diego is not having its Stand Down this year due to COVID.