El Paso's Annual Stand Down was held Friday. Stand Down is a Veterans Affairs one-day event that provides services for homeless veterans. The Texas National Guard said the number of veterans who attended more than doubled from last year, from 81 to over 200. They gave men and women food, clothing, health screenings, and Social Security benefits counseling.
The VA attributes the high rise in homeless vets to a stagnate job market.
How do highly trained and disciplined soldiers wind up on the streets?
"Very little to do with drugs and alcohol," said Sixto Gomez, the El Paso VA homeless outreach coordinator. "So it's really needing jobs and there's no jobs available."
"They don't have jobs," said homeless veteran Rodney Brown. "That's how it is. They ain't no jobs."
Especially for disabled and mentally ill veterans according to a military social worker at the Veterans Transitional Center downtown.
"At least 20% coming in suffer from PTSD or TBI, traumatic brain injury," Gomez said.
Some can find shelter there, but with only 20 beds, and two-year leases, many vets young and old find themselves running out of benefits with no where to go for help.
"Some of them come back here and they just lack support," Gomez said "They're single, they're individuals, they don't have family. And they end up on the streets."
But even living on the streets, Rodney Brown knew about Stand Down.
"I showed my ID and they gave me a free meal and a duffel bag full of military clothes and that's it," Brown said.
Whether it's getting these men and women mental health care or education, El Paso Veterans Affairs is working to rehabilitate the homeless and get them off the streets, because they are trained individuals and worth the investment.
"You have a lot that are saying hey I need help," Gomez said.
Gomez said another big obstacle for these guys is getting the information that can get them off the streets and learning about programs available to them. Some are not able to get to down to the VA for counseling, and Gomez said he wouldn't mind if people helped him spread the word.