by James Spellman, Jr.
Space and Missile Systems Center Public Affairs
12/23/2015 - LOS ANGELES AIR FORCE BASE - EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- For
three days in December, just before the holidays, the pace of events in
downtown Los Angeles were anything but relaxed for a dedicated group of
Space and Missile Systems Center personnel intent on helping former
brothers- and sisters-in-arms in need.
In what was billed as the largest "stand down" for homeless military
veterans and their families to ever take place in the country, more than
65 volunteers from SMC joined service providers from federal, state,
city and county governments as well as local nonprofit partners from
across Los Angeles County and the South Bay Dec. 19-21 at the Los
Angeles Convention Center.
The three-day event saw dozens of service providers from the public and
private sectors assist vets with everything from housing and employment
assistance to a variety of VA services to dental and other medical and
wellness services. SMC personnel provided over 400 volunteer hours
during the stand down. The active duty, civilians and contractors came
from Los Angeles Air Force Base to help set up the event, hand out food
and clothing and participate in the opening ceremony.
"There's something special about helping your own. Although I can't
relate with their struggles, we do share one thing in common....we all
raised our right hand and vowed to support and defend the
Constitution. 'Homeless' and 'Veterans' shouldn't be in the same
sentence," said Maj. Dex Landreth, Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle
Mission Integration chief with SMC's Launch Systems Enterprise
Directorate. "It pulls at the heart strings when you see the numbers of
over 5,000 homeless veterans in the Los Angeles area. I'm extremely
proud to help out with the Los Angeles Veterans Stand Down."
According to the U.S. Vets website regarding the second annual L.A. Vets
Stand Down, Los Angeles has the largest population of homeless military
veterans in the nation living on the streets. Homeless vets account for
nearly 20 percent of the people living on the streets and in shelters
in Los Angeles. For a low-income veteran and family, attaining and
maintaining affordable, stable housing is no easy achievement in the
City of Angels. The overall cost of living in L.A. is 36 percent above
the national average, with housing costs among the top 10 most expensive
in the nation.
"No man or women who have served our country, particularly in combat,
should be sleeping on the streets of Los Angeles," said Landreth, who in
2009, was selected to attend a nine-month civic leadership fellowship
called Leadership L.A.
"The fellowship was geared towards individuals with a strong commitment
for civic leadership and engagement within the city of Los Angeles. At
the end of the of the nine-month fellowship, the expectation is to
either sit on a non-profit/philanthropic board, become an appointed or
elected official, and ultimately shape policies that influence the
quality of life for all Californians," Landreth explained.
"It was during the fellowship that brought me to the attention of United
States Veterans Initiatives, or U.S. Vets, a private non-profit
organization that provides housing, employment, and counseling to our
nation's veterans. With 21 residential sites and nine service centers in
14 cities across six states, it's the nation's largest nonprofit
provider of comprehensive services to homeless and at-risk veterans.
"It started with a simple email to Stephen Peck, CEO of U.S. Vets and
son of Academy award-winning actor Gregory Peck. He immediately
responded to my desire to contribute to the organization and brought me
to the Inglewood facility and introduced me to Ivan Mason, the executive
director of U.S. Vets Inglewood. From that time on, I was elected to
their Advisory Board and have participated in numerous volunteer events
and solicited volunteers from SMC to support the fight against homeless
According to Landreth, President Obama and the Department of Veteran
Affairs set a national goal of ending veteran homelessness. In July, Los
Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, a U.S. Navy Reserve officer, signed on to
the President's Challenge and committed to ending veteran homelessness.
"As the second largest U.S. city, Los Angeles is a leader in solving
community issues and with Mayor Garcetti and the City Council's backing,
the stand down will be an invaluable tool in reaching this important
goal," said Landreth.
For more information on how to meet the President's Challenge of ending
homelessness among veterans, visit the U.S. Vets website at www.usvetsinc.org or contact Maj. Landreth at (310) 653-3022 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.