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New program aims to aid homeless vets

Among the ranks of homeless in the Fredericksburg area are military veterans who may not know that there is help available specifically for them.

That’s the point of a program dubbed “2013 Stand-Down for Homeless Veterans” scheduled from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday at VFW Post 3103 in Fredericksburg. The post is located at 2701 Princess Anne St. near the Falmouth Bridge.

The idea is to connect veterans who are homeless or at risk of being homeless with the services and support they need, said Mahlon Johnson, a veteran peer specialist with the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program.

“We use stand downs like this to try to track down vets” who may need medical care at a VA clinic, clothes, food or a job, Johnson said.

The Virginia Wounded Warrior Program is a component of the Rappahannock Area Community Services Board, and funded by the state Department of Veterans Affairs.

Several other agencies will also offer assistance on Friday.

The Virginia Employment Commission will have a veterans representative on hand to help them search for jobs and training opportunities.

The Army Wounded Warrior Program will offer information on its mission and identify veterans who meet eligibility requirements.

Disabled American Veterans will offer individual counseling about disability claims with Veterans Affairs and assistance in filing claims.

Rappahannock Goodwill Industries Job Help Center will set up appointments with veterans interested in services and help with résumé review and job-search counseling.

Barber Shop & Co. is providing free barber services.

Not directly involved in Friday’s program are Micah Ecumenical Ministries and Thurman Brisben Center, both of which provide services for the area’s homeless, including veterans. Micah Director Meghann Cotter said Micah refers veterans to the VA for services.

Both agencies work with the Virginia Wounded Warrior Program, Johnson said, to identify veterans and coordinate help.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that about 62,619 veterans are homeless on any given night. About 13 percent of the nation’s homeless population are veterans.

Another 1.4 million veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.

Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431


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