After Tom Steinhagen spent last weekend “homeless” — living in a car and fasting for 80 hours to raise awareness of homeless veterans, while accepting donations of blue jeans and cash — one might think that he would be taking it easy this weekend.
Through today, Steinhagen, 61, a disabled Vietnam War veteran who lives in Mesa, is helping out at the Stand Down event for veterans at the Arizona State Fairgrounds Coliseum near downtown Phoenix. That’s where he is taking the jeans to be handed out to homeless veterans in attendence. The myriad of services the homeless veterans can receive at the event includes free clothing, medical services, veterinary services for their pets and Social Security and Motor Vehicle Division assistance.
“A lot of veterans have services coming that they don’t even know about, and this event is geared toward helping them,” Steinhagen said.
But through the week, Steinhagen said he recovered from his experience of living in a well-worn 1985 Honda Prelude in front of Berge Ford in Mesa. During the effort, he collected nearly 3,000 pairs of slightly-used blue jeans — four truckloads — and cash that continues to come in after word got around of his Stand Up and Stand Proud nonprofit organization; he said about 4,000 stopped by to see him.
He also said he experienced slight dehydration and his potassium and magnesium levels dropping during his homlessness experience last weekend, and he doesn’t know when or if he’ll stage another homelessness experience in the future.
“We didn’t intend to make this a regular thing, but we’re still receiving phone calls,” Steinhagen said. “It’s pretty rough to spend 80 hours fasting and living like that.”
Instead, Steinhagen said he and his wife will continue to focus on volunteering at events that benefit veterans and their annual Stand up and Stand Proud Motorcycle Ride throughout Mesa — a fundraiser for homeless veterans held the second Saturday in January each year. More than 500 motorcyclists participated last month.
On any given night, there are an estimated 300,000 homeless veterans living on the street throughout the United States and up to 3,500 homeless veterans on the streets in the Valley alone, according to statistics taken by the U.S. Census Bureau and the Veterans Administration.
But Steinhagen said he is more than happy with last weekend’s turnout.
“We accomplished all of our objectives, which was to bring more of an awareness to the plight of homeless veterans,” Steinhagen said. “Now, we’ll sit back and evaluate what we’ve done, what he hope to continue to do and what we can do.”
For more information, visit www.standupandstandproud.org.
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