Operation Stand Down Tennessee CEO John Krenson was in the Clarksville office recently for a meeting with his team over coffee and doughnuts.
Operation Stand Down began in Nashville in 1993 as a once-a-year event, a resource fair for veterans. At that time, great focus was placed on helping homeless veterans get off the street. Veterans comprised 16 – 35 % of America’s homeless population.
“That particular problem has improved a lot,” Krenson said. “Currently, there are 100,000 veterans in middle Tennessee, 500,000 across the state, and on average, 300 – 400 active duty soldiers separate from Fort Campbell every month. About 1/3 of them stay in the area.”
Krenson says that problems exist across the board, whether the veterans are single or married, recently transitioned or long-time separated, and their needs are different.
“Some need help accessing benefits,” Krenson said. “Others need help understanding what is available to them from the Veterans Administration. We’ve had veterans who suffer from PTSD suffer triggering events long after they are separated from the military. Others come home from more recent deployments and need access to mental health services immediately. We can help with all these things.”
The program offers help in five major areas, Transition, Benefits, Housing, Education and Employment. There are a host of other wrap around services as well. OSD assists with access to a financial coach, or pro bono legal services. The program even offers assistance with debt resolution.
“We are a one-stop-shop concierge,” Krenson said “We work with a lot of partners, and can help our veterans in a variety of ways. They can get lost in the maze of services that are out there, so we try to meet with them, assess their needs, and get them connected to the right people, the ones who can best help them.”