Military Stand Down helps Flint area vets

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FLINT (WJRT) - (06/12/15) - An incredible number of military veterans in Mid-Michigan are homeless or could soon be out on the street, and yet there's a lot of help available for them.

One estimate says 10 percent of vets in Genesee County don't have a place to call home. The Genesee County Veterans Council wants to get those vets the help they need.

This is the second year for the Stand Down. About 50 organizations and agencies set up tables to provide vets with information about housing, health care and employment.

"A veteran is very proud. He's not going to ask for help. So sometimes you got to go out there and grab them and say 'We're here, we've been here. Come in and we'll get you help,'" said Robert Wilson, of the VFW.

"Out of 80,000 veterans in Genesee County, I'd say there's roughly 9,000 are homeless veterans," said Arthur Woodson, an Army veteran.

Stephanie Shannon is an Army veteran who at one time was homeless, but was willing to look for help.

"I think the challenge is the veterans are trying to find out where they can go. Where's a one-stop place? Where's a place I can go and tell them my problems and share with them what I need and get that assistance," Shannon said.

"If you need something, we will bend over backwards to help you," Wilson said.

All too often, veterans have trouble trusting others and are reluctant to come to events like the stand down.

"A lot of times if they have some trauma in the military, they just kind of run away from it all and the transition isn't that smooth," Shannon said.

"There's a lot of vets now that's in dire need of a lot of things that they can't get anywhere else," said Oliver Kindell, who attended the Stand Down.

Hundreds of vets took advantage of free clothing and free advice. This is the second year for the Stand Down.

It was a small room in the back where many went. There, haircuts from Master's Barber and Beauty were available.

The vets - many of them who have no permanent address - could grab Army boots, blankets, rucksacks and parkas.

"This is extraordinary because it looks like survival tactic gear and I can use some. I've got custody of our two youngest daughters. Anything that's free is a commodity," said Jarrett Harris, a Marine veteran.

"I'm homeless, but I'm not homeless. I'm homeless because I can't afford to live somewhere comfortable that I would be satisfied with," said Oliver Kindell, an Army veteran.

Those who help homeless veterans say the gear will be put to good use.

"A lot of people do spend time, a lot of time outdoors, and I think it would be great for them," said Calvin Conway, a Marine veteran.

Another room provided used clothing for those who at one time wore a uniform of the nation's military.

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