SARASOTA COUNTY - It's possible the Suncoast has upwards of 800 or more homeless veterans living in our area. This weekend a special event is taking place to help. And Those offering services are also working year-round to give veterans a hand.
Greg Para is seeing a trend in the local court system. "There are more and more everyday. Folks coming back and having problems integrating from Iraq and Afghanistan."
Para is working as an advocate though the Jewish Family and Children's Service of Sarasota Manatee Inc., who is offering help finding services like job training and more to keep them out of jail. "Housing, mental health, financial assistance, anything to do with substance abuse."
Para says he knows the perils. The Naval officer recently returning himself from a tour in Afghanistan. "I've been there and been though a lot of what they've been though. It is a lot more credibility then them just talking to some psychologist or attorney who may not understand what they are going through."
"The presence of veterans in this community is understated and not well understood." Needed says Director of Veterans Services Chip Taylor. For those who are struggling this weekend a stand down is aimed at helping. More than 20 local organizations are taking part. "Anything from job counseling to a haircut. Assistance with a budget to financial benefits they may be eligible for through either the VA or through mainstream organizations like the Department of Children and families."
Food and clothing too. A growing concern as more are taking to camp sites. "There are as many camps in south county as there are in the northern part."
Plans to help those who have served already in need and a new plan to keep the need down says Para. "Lets get them while we can still jump in and divert them instead of having someone that is incarcerated over and over again."
The Stand Down is taking place this Saturday from 8am to 1pm at the Sarasota Health Department.
Those with the Jewish Family and Childrens Service say up to 80% of those they are helping are not Jewish. If you need or know somebody in help they say they are there.