OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – On Friday, veterans who are at risk or experiencing homelessness in Oklahoma City got some desperately-needed help.
Every year, the Homeless Alliance hosts the VA’s “Sooner Stand Down,” providing help with healthcare, employment and more.
The Sooner Stand Down is only one day – but with all the resources provided, one day is all they need to help veterans turn their lives around.
“It brought everything together for me,” said local veteran Darrell Quirk. “I’m going to be really honest with you. I might get a little emotional.”
Quirk grew up in Oklahoma.
He went on to serve our country – but he, like many veterans, faced battles of a different kind when he came home.
“When I got out of the military, I let my mental health take me down some dark paths of addiction, substance use and incarceration,” Quirk recalled.
A 2017 visit to the Sooner Stand Down changed everything.
“By the time that I left here, I had a new mouth full of teeth and I had housing for me and my two kids and I was being looked at to be put in a diversion program, an alternative to prison, veteran’s diversion program,” Quirk told News 4.
Each year, the Sooner Stand Down provides at-risk veterans or those experiencing homelessness help with housing, dental, vision, mental healthcare and primary healthcare.
They even provide food and haircuts.
“The idea of a ‘stand down’ is that you stand down together to stand up for something,” said Healthcare for Homeless Veterans Social Worker Christine Cleary. “So what we’re doing today is standing up for homeless veterans.”
The Homeless Alliance says about 10% of those experiencing homelessness in OKC are veterans.
“Every night in Oklahoma City we have about 1,500 homeless people so that means about 150 are veterans,” said Dan Straughan, Executive Director of the Homeless Alliance. “There are lots of programs and resources for that group, you’ve just got to find a way to reach them. This is one of best ways to do that.”
As for Quirk, he now has a job he loves – helping others who face the same challenges he once did.
“Very passionate about showing other veterans that just because of a circumstance, or where they may be at today, it doesn’t have to stay that way,” he told News 4.
Though the Sooner Stand Down is just one day, the Homeless Alliance and the VA say they’re happy to help those in need year round.