MATHER -- Hundreds of local veterans who are struggling with homelessness are receiving free medical, dental, wellness and housing services this weekend at Stand Down for Homeless Veterans at the Mather Business Complex.
The three day event is hosted by charity organization The Sacramento Stand Down Association. The base camp-inspired setting is designed to replicate the real conditions veterans experienced when resting and recovering from war in a secure environment.
The idea is that the men and woman can experience the camaraderie they once had with fellow soldiers while taking care of their individuals needs.
"It's just a bond, and that's what I was missing. And four years ago, that's what I found again," Joe Qualls said.
Qualls is a Navy veteran who served in Desert Storm. He told FOX40 he first came to the stand down event four years ago when he was still homeless. He now volunteers at the annual event and lives in the newly opened Veteran's Village in Mather.
"I came straight from a war, and two days later, I was in Placerville again," Qualls said. "I went through probably fifty jobs and would just walk away. I didn't know what PTSD was.
"These guys don't know there's even help out there, especially the Vietnam vets, because of how they were treated when they got home. I had injuries, too, and I just never saw a doctor from 1991 to four years ago."
Qualls said half the battle was informing local homeless veterans that they had health services available, because many simply did not believe it. The other half of the battle, he said, was getting some of them to commit to the mandatory three day stay.
Some of the veterans were detoxing from drugs during their stay, many others were sober but not accustomed to being around so many people, or acknowledging that they needed some assistance.
"It's hard to say I need help or I'm broken. But there's definitely help out there now," Qualls said.
Many local and national companies donated goods and services for the Stand Down event. Local boy scout troop 53 was on hand making a meal for the veterans on Friday night and leading a flag ceremony.
"The veterans fought to protect our country so I think it's an honor to give them food," boy scout Daniel Garland said.
Many of the volunteers, and even some of the doctors on hand, were also veterans. Qualls said that was a huge relief to the veterans staying for the weekend, because they could relate to the people providing care for them.
"I know a lot of guys are gonna walk away from this place and they're gonna be excited," Qualls said.
For more information on how to volunteer or donate to future Stand Down events, go to http://standdownsacramento.org/