Fayetteville homeless stand down focuses on veterans

FAYETTEVILLE, NC -- Holly Beasley moved from tent to tent in Festival Park Thursday, collecting freebies and useful information for her friends who live under bridges. Some of them are Army veterans like Beasley.

"The transitions aren't always that easy," she said, referring to the move from military to civilian life.

The 55-year-old said she'd been in and out of homelessness for years, but recent HUD assistance has put her in a new home.

"Which is a great relief for my mind to be able to say I've served my country for 10 years ... I mean, that someone out there actually cares."

Beasley was among those receiving guidance at the annual Community Homeless Stand Down in Fayetteville. The driving force behind the resource fair is the Fayetteville VA Medical Center.

Everything from clothing to knapsacks, free haircuts, health screenings and educational opportunities are available at the two-day event. While it's open to anyone in need, the focus is on veterans who are able to tap into VAMC resources they may not even know exist.

"A lot of people are pretty much one paycheck away from being homeless," said Jeri Veirs, who's department tracks homeless vets who have come through the Fayetteville VAMC.

"We have 321 vouchers for veterans that are in the Fayetteville, Wilmington and Jacksonville area and we've housed 87 percent of those veterans," said Veirs. "We're reaching toward a 100-percent goal."

Veirs said the community can assist veterans through partnering with faith-based organizations -donating time and money.

Many veterans said it is compassion that reaches further than anything else.

"Just don't turn their back on them," said Richard Monroe, an Army veteran who served from 1964-75. "A lot of times, we get the backs turned on us. They say 'well, you've served, and the government should help you, not the community.'"

"Just be patient with people and try to understand what they sayin' and what they're going through," said Rodney Harris, another Army veteran attending the Stand Down.

The Community Homeless Stand Down continues on Friday from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. in Festival Park.

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