Hundreds of Bay Area veterans Thursday morning climbed aboard buses bound for the Alameda County Fairgrounds, where a four-day event is under way that offers free services to local veterans, their families -- and even their pets.
"We provide what we call a 'one stop shop,'" said Jerry Yahiro, who is on the board of directors for the event, known as East Bay Stand Down.
One of the organizing group's goals is to end homelessness among veterans.
The event, which requires pre-registration, connects participants with medical, dental, mental health, employment, legal, tax, substance abuse and other services.
In addition, the organizers have coordinated with a number of local pet care groups to offer what Yahiro called "doggy stand down" so that veterans' pets can receive veterinary care and grooming while their owners attend the event.
This is the seventh East Bay Stand Down event since 1999, Yahiro said. Starting in 2000, the group has put on the event every two years.
"Stand down" is a war term that refers to the practice of removing combat troops from the battlefield so that they can be cared for in a safe area, according to the group's website.
Yahiro said the last numbers he has seen indicate that there are an estimated 15,000 homeless veterans living in the nine-county Bay Area.
Although many of the services offered at this week's event are available to veterans on a daily basis, Yahiro said they are often scattered and difficult to find.
This year's event had room for 450 participants. Yahiro said the group had to cap the number of invitees because they wanted to focus on providing quality services.