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Homeless and Struggling Veterans Find Resources at Stand Down

Update:  225 veterans were served at Tuesday's event.

An event this week in Springfield gave veterans a hand up—not a hand out.  The Ozarks’ first Veterans Stand Down offered vets a variety of services and information.  KSMU’s Michele Skalicky has more.

By the halfway point of the event, more than 100 veterans had come through the doors at the Ozark Empire Fairgrounds E-Plex.

The Stand Down was designed for veterans living in poverty and homelessness, but anyone who served in the military was welcome.

Representatives from a variety of organizations, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, were there to offer help and information.

"It's not that they don't have these resources, but to get to all these resources in one day like this in a one-stop-shop kind of fashion, isn't going to happen," he said.

Will Carter is a spokesman for the Community Partnership of the Ozarks, which co-sponsored the event with the American Red Cross.

"The whole idea is to help all of our veterans meet those resources in one day and hopefully walk out of here maybe knowing a little bit more about services available to them that they didn't know before," he said.

Veterans could get flu shots, have their blood pressure checked and even get tested for HIV.

They could learn how to get job readiness skills and help finding employment.

Home at Last, a program run by The Kitchen, Inc. was there to let veterans know about help available for housing.  The program, funded by an SSVF grant from the VA, offers temporary financial assistance and/or services as a bridge to long-term stability.

Vets could also get legal advice and they could register to vote.

Delinda Billingsley is married to a veteran, and she was pleasantly surprised to see another service being offered.

"I didn't know they were going to be out here doing hair cuts, so they're being nice and cutting my hair even though I'm not a veteran, and the Home at Last people were helping us out with something," she said.

Her husband, Charles, sat patiently waiting while his wife had her hair done.  He’s served in the National Guard for 14 years.  Jobs have been hard to come by in Springfield, and he says he was grateful for the event.

"It helps out, especially when you have no place else to go," he said.

More than 150 volunteers signed up to help with the Veterans Stand Down including Jack Hembree who served in the Army for 22 years.  He says the event was long overdue, and he’s proud of what they were able to offer veterans.

"For our first go, the success--you can see it all around you.  And we're going to do it again next year," he said.

He says an added benefit of the Stand Down was finding homeless veterans they haven’t been able to identify during the homeless count done each year by the Community Partnership of the Ozarks.