Drake Law School students participated in the local Stand Down event held annually for homeless or near-homeless veterans.
Stand Downs are one part of the Department of Veterans Affairs’ efforts to provide services to homeless veterans. Services to homeless Veterans include food, shelter, clothing, health screenings, VA and Social Security benefits counseling, and referrals to a variety of other necessary services, such as housing, employment, substance abuse treatment, and legal services. Stand Downs are collaborative events, coordinated between local VAs, other government agencies, and community agencies who serve the homeless. Various organizations send volunteers to assist in the operation, including Drake Law School. The Law School has a proud tradition of public service by law students and their participation in Stand Down is one example.
The Drake Law School Legal Clinic, Public Service Scholars, and the Drake Military Law Association students have participated in the Stand Down operation in Des Moines for several years. Law students interview potential clients for referrals to a variety of resources. The areas of law usually covered include family law, tax, administrative law, landlord tenant, veteran benefits, wills, and criminal cases including traffic. There were nineteen law students and one alumna providing services in the legal tent.
“I had some idea of struggles the homeless veteran community faced, but an event like this really demonstrated the need of the community,” said Michelle Grau, Student Bar Association president. “This was a great way to receive practical experience outside of the classroom."
Not only was the presence of students felt at Stand Down, there was also the impact of Federal Magistrate Judge Celeste Bremer. Professor Bob Rigg describes Judge Bremer as, “…a force of nature with a smile and always a kind word.” When students were between clients, Judge Bremer would make sure they were helping with other areas.
In the words of Judge Bremer to the law students: “Thank you! We quite literally can’t do this without you! This is why we are lawyers, because we’re magic!”
More information regarding Stand Down can be found on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs website.