Homeless veterans can get help at stand-down event in Florida

By MARCIA HEROUX POUNDS | Sun Sentinel | Published: May 20, 2014

More than 200 veterans live on the streets in Broward County. On Memorial Day weekend, volunteers hope to provide them housing, jobs and other help.

About 300 veterans from Broward and Miami-Dade counties are expected to attend the South Florida Homeless Veterans Stand Down beginning Friday at American Legion Post 29, 6445 NE 7th Ave., Miami.

Veterans who attend will receive medical, vision and dental exams; legal services; mental health and substance abuse assistance; job-help services; and basic needs including food, clothing and haircuts.

Some will even get housing. Through organizations such as Broward's Home for Heroes, permanent housing will be available for 45 veterans. Thirty to 40 who need medical treatment along with housing will get that, organizers say.

And for all to enjoy, entertainment: Connie Francis of "Where the Boys Are" and 1960s Fort Lauderdale spring break fame will perform a USO-style show.

Designated pick-up locations in Broward are the Salvation Army, 1901 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, and Stone of Hope, 4414 Pembroke Road, West Park.

Both counties keep a regular count of homeless residents. In Miami-Dade, nearly 300 veterans are on the streets.

Next weekend's stand-down is the largest South Florida event to assist homeless veterans, organizers say. Nearly 200 organizations and 1,000 volunteers are participating in the event, which lasts through Sunday.

"The intention to give them one location to get what they need," said George Ivanoff, a program manager at CareerSource Broward, the county's employment agency, which will work with veterans to help them develop resumes and find jobs.

While Ivanoff said he can't say how many homeless veterans will end up in jobs, they will get basic living needs fulfilled so they can apply for a job.

Retired Lt. Col. Tony Colmenares, director of Florida Veterans Foundation who is organizing the event, said it is named "stand-down" for the military term when units are pulled off the front lines and are able to relax.

"The goal of stand-down is to empower our veterans to make their way back into society. We wrap a lot of services around them with the hope they can get back on a track of success," he said.

For legal needs, the camp will have a veterans' court with a presiding judge. Coast-to-Coast Legal Services and several local lawyers will be available to help veterans work through legal issues or impediments, such as getting a driver's license renewed.

The veterans will be treated with respect at the camp "so they can start feeling good about themselves again," Colmenares said.

"They come in a little reluctant at first, not knowing what to expect. When they see this is something that empowers them, their attitudes start changing," he said.

mpounds@tribune.com or 561-243-6650

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