LAURINBURG — Veteran homelessness continues to be a persistent problem in the area and across the nation.
To give down-on-their-luck veterans a leg up, Scotland County will host a Veterans Stand Down event facilitating veterans services in Richmond, Hoke and Scotland counties on Thursday. There will also be a job fair held in conjunction with the event to assist local community members.
The Scotland County Veterans Stand Down and Career Fair will be held from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the National Guard Armory on 1520 S. Main St. The first part — Stand Down — will be held from 9 to 11:30 a.m. for homeless veterans. During the Stand Down service veterans will be fed lunch at 10:30 and receive donations and resources throughout the event.
“We’re going to be catering to their needs such as dental care, medical care, flu shots and things of that nature,” said Tony Murphy, regional veteran employment representative. “We will be providing them with clothing, blankets, coats, boots and a bunch of other supplies that we will be giving out that day.”
The Job Fair will begin at 11:30 a.m. and welcomes community members from Scotland, Hoke and Richmond counties to come in and apply for jobs.
“Scotland County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the state,” Murphy said. “We felt like this would be a perfect place to have it because of the unemployment rate.”
They are expecting at least 500 veterans and community members to come through and they are prepared with more than enough supplies.
“Campbell’s Soup gave us four tons of supplies and we have a lot of stuff we want to give away,” he said. “It’s a pretty big event that we’re throwing here.”
The event was created to assist the high unemployment and homeless rates for veterans.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released its Annual Homeless Assessment Report. The 2014 report reported 49,933 homeless veterans, a 32.57 percent decrease from the 2009 count of 74,050. The 2015 numbers are not yet available.
The event will provide area veterans with medical attention and information regarding state and federal programs designed to help them get back on their feet, according to Robert Johnson with the Disabled Veteran Outreach Program in Scotland County.
“I feel that this is a very positive event for our veterans,” Johnson said. “It will give the veterans from all three counties the resources, programs and services that we are going to provide at this program.”
Johnson said “stand down” in the military is a time for servicemen and women to recoup, relax and get medical attention. Government-sponsored stand-downs are designed to do the same thing for homeless and struggling veterans, he said.
“It is a one stop location for all the services,” Johnson said. “I know the veterans needs will be met,” Johnson said. “And they will not have to travel beyond the county line.”
Services that will be available include foot care, immunizations and eye exams, IRS information, hair cuts, a soup kitchen, mental and medical health referrals, Social Security information, Job Link van services, laundry services and health education.
Services also available in association with Veterans Affairs will be assistance with enrollment in the VA’s SLC health care system, as well as information on the VA homeless program, mental health services, substance abuse services, vocational rehab, VA benefits, assistance for female veterans and the veterans’ legal clinic.
Registration locations are at the N.C. Works Career Center, 303 N. Main St., Laurinburg, 910-276-4260; the VA Outreach Program, 2300 Ramsey St., Fayetteville, 910-308-1183; or Scotland County Veterans Services, 507 W. Covington St., Laurinburg, 910-277-2597.
Johnson said the Scotland County Stand Down also offers local businesses an opportunity to advertise their services and products to military veterans and job seekers who attend this event as well as show their support for military veterans. Business participants are invited to join or donate items by becoming a sponsor of the event.
Organizers said the Scotland County Veterans’ Stand-Down is also in need of volunteers. To sign up as a volunteer, contact Johnson, Vivian Little or Christina Harvey at 910-276-4260 with any questions.
Abby Hackmann can be reached at 910-506-3171. The Richmond County Daily Journal contributed to this article.