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Annual Stand Down helps homeless military veterans in Bay County

News Herald - 9/28/2018

Sept. 28--PANAMA CITY -- Air Force veteran Marlon Olson was grateful for the 11th Annual Homeless Veteran Stand Down since it helps him get by.

Olson isn't homeless since he lives with a roommate but said he wouldn't be able to survive on his own. Not every veteran is as fortunate as him, he continued, adding "things are tough all over, even if you have an income."

"For the fellows that need it, the ladies also, it's one of the best things going," Olson, 61, said.

The Stand Down, which provided veterans with free food and services, took place Thursday downtown at the First Baptist Church Panama City. Veterans paired up with an active duty service member to go through stations filling up backpacks with clothes, hygiene items and bags of food.

Jairo Selvera, an airman out of Tyndall Air Force Base, walked with Olson as the veteran picked out items. Selvera said it felt great to help out.

"I'm glad to be here serving our community," Selvera said. "It's important to do some stuff out of the base."

Veterans also received free haircuts and medical tests. CareerSource Gulf Coast partnered with numerous organizations, including the Panama City Rescue Mission and Bay County Vet Center, for the event.

The VA in Florida estimates 2,789 homeless veterans live in the state, based on a 2017 study. Preliminary numbers from this year's point in time survey -- a homeless count conducted by Doorways of Northwest Florida -- indicated there are approximately 32 homeless veterans living in Bay County.

"We don't even pretend to think we can address all of those (in Florida) but by having events like today we give people hope, information, direction and somebody to talk to that can help them," Lee Ellzey, the director of workforce services at CareerSource said. "Those of us that work with community-based organizations and nonprofits, we're not in this for the money. This whole idea of helping and providing services for others is huge for us.

The American Legion Post 392 Auxiliary handed out food and clothes at their table on behalf of the whole post, which donated funds.

"We're here to help veterans get on their feet," Auxiliary President Tina Redmiles said. "We want to show them the community is behind them and appreciates their sacrifices. They sacrificed their whole life and now they're still sacrificing, being on the streets. God bless them."

Preliminary numbers from last month's point in time survey -- a homeless county conducted by Doorways of Northwest Florida -- indicated there are approximately 32 homeless veterans living in the area.

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(c)2018 The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.)

Visit The News Herald (Panama City, Fla.) at www.newsherald.com

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

 
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