Ernest Beaton is a patient at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in Tuskegee, Ala., but he took advantage of services available Saturday at the Sixth Annual Homeless Veterans Stand Down at the Columbus Convention & Trade Center.
“I’m doing great,” said Beaton, holding a bag of items available from booths. “I’ve got a lot of services.”
The event sponsored by the South Atlantic Center for Veterans Education and Training Inc. offered men and women veterans about 100 to 150 booths with representatives from local, state and federal agencies, said Romal Holder, vice president of the non-profit organization. There were job fairs with employers, dental and health screenings, haircuts for men, eye exams and a heavy presence of different churches offering spiritual help for veterans. For women, it included the second annual Homeless Female Veterans Stand Down.
“The turnout has been awesome and I think the people who have come have found what they’ve been looking for,” Holder said. “Based on the ones I’ve talked to, they did not ever expect to receive the services they received today. They are overwhelmed with services they have been offered, especially with jobs and education.”
In addition to offering veterans help with housing, health and burial benefits, volunteers were available to help veterans with their mortgages, Holder said. Donald Killins, a Navy veteran and volunteer with SACVET, said many seeking help were homeless women.
“I think there will probably be even more next year,” Killins said. “There are a lot of women. They are just lost out there. They don’t know. If you didn’t know this event was going on today, you could be four blocks away and not know it was here if you didn’t get the word.”
Desiree Hill, a Columbus resident and native of the Bronx, N.Y., said the event gave her a chance to meet different people for services. “It’s a lot to view ,” she said. “I love it.”
Walter L. Greene of Columbus said he stopped by the Homeless Resource Network’s booth. “I was homeless one time myself and they helped out a lot to get me back on my feet and get my life together,” he said. “I’ve got a house now.”
Veterans who didn’t make it to the Stand Down can still get questions answered about services, Killins said. They should call 706-593-3393.