Each September, organizations from across the community pull together to help our area’s homeless veterans. On Thursday, September 26, CareerSource Gulf Coast led the effort to help, hosting the 12th Annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down.
The nation’s homeless veterans are predominantly male, with roughly 9% being female, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The majority are single; live in urban areas; and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. About 11% of the adult homeless population are veterans. Locally, veterans represent approximately 17% of the homeless population, according to the Homeless and Hunger Coalition of Northwest Florida.
“We were not sure how Hurricane Michael may have impacted the number of homeless veterans in our area,” CareerSource Gulf Coast Executive Director Kim Bodine said. “However, we prepared to provide the best service possible to those who were able to participate in the event.”
The 12th Annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down was held from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 26, at the First Baptist Church Family Life Center, 601 Grace Ave., downtown Panama City. Numerous community agencies were on hand during the day to offer information and assistance to 40+ homeless veterans. The Bay Town Trolley also provided all veterans free transportation to any of their stops, in honor of the event.
In addition to haircuts and a hot lunch, services included information about employment and education, medical screenings, social service assistance and VA benefits. Event participants also received non-perishable food, toiletries, clothing and sleeping bags. The goal was to equip area homeless veterans with the resources needed to transition from the streets and shelters back into the communities.
“We are grateful for the many partners in this community who have continuously stepped forward to help us serve our local homeless veterans,” Bodine said. “We are all unified on the premise that our veterans have served and now it’s our turn. Through this event, we do just that.”
The local Stand Down event for homeless veterans was modeled after the Stand Down concept used during the Vietnam War to provide a safe retreat for units returning from combat operations. At secure base camp areas, troops were able to take care of personal hygiene, get clean uniforms, enjoy warm meals, receive medical and dental care, mail and receive letters, and enjoy the camaraderie of friends in a safe environment. Stand Down afforded battle-weary soldiers the opportunity to renew their spirit, health and overall sense of well-being.
More details about the 12th Annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down are available at www.careersourcegc.com, or by calling 850-872-4340.