Daniel Rudolph held still as Doris Williams cut his hair and gave him a close shave. Rudolph, a 49-year-old homeless veteran of the U.S. Army, smiled as Williams touched up his salt-and-pepper locks."Without opportunities like this I would look like a vagabond and nobody wants that," Williams said from beneath a leopard-print smock.
Rudolph was one of the more than 300 homeless veterans expected to participate in the Veterans Stand Down event in Detroit. The event offers veterans free haircuts, medical screenings, counseling, dental and eye care along with meals, legal aid and a place to sleep.
Volunteers handed out clothing, such as large fleece sweaters and t-shirts. Bands, one of which was made up of former homeless veterans, played tunes. Veterans could catch a break from the sun and heat under covered areas. The help was offered in an area adjacent to the Michigan Veterans Foundation Detroit Veterans Center on Park Avenue.
Tyrone Chatman, the center's executive director, said about 1,500 homeless vets may visit the makeshift camp during the three days of the Stand Down. "It is our way of letting our veterans know their dedication to their country has not been forgotten," he said.
People who came to the event were given stickers that said "Vet" and their first name. Everyone was addressed with courtesy titles. The families of the veterans were also invited to participate. Michael Turner, a homeless veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps., sat under a camouflaged tent, reading a book about marines by W.E.B. Griffin. "I got a haircut here," he said. "I stayed the night at the Detroit Rescue Mission and then came here today and got some t-shirts."
Inside the center, volunteers cooked chicken, made pasta salad and prepared other dishes to serve the hungry vets. "It is a wonderful way to give back to people who have given so much to us," said Andrea Pierce of the Detroit Tip Toppers, a volunteer organization, while washing a pan in the center's kitchen. "I do not take my freedom lightly."
Charity Motors gave a Chevy Lumina to a female veteran of Dessert Storm who has a heart condition and needs transportation for medical appointments. Rudolph said even though another veteran was receiving the car, he was touched by the gesture and the work of the volunteers. Organizers did not name the woman who received the car.
"We really appreciate this," Rudolph said. "They treat you with respect. The people giving help are vets too and they know what respect means."