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Maine veterans experiencing homelessness get boost in Portland

The Portland Homeless Veterans' Mobile Stand Down event allowed dozens of struggling veterans to learn more about resources to give them stability.

PORTLAND, Maine — It couldn't have been a more comfortable fall day in Portland on Wednesday, but Mainers know winter's cold weather is closing in.

While the freezing temperatures are a concern for Mainers experiencing homelessness, the need for those people is always great regardless of the time of year.

An event was held at the Hannaford parking lot in the city's back bay to serve a key population struggling to find housing: our veterans.

“Come down and talk to us and see what you’re eligible for, and I think we can help," Dave Richmond, the director of the Maine Bureau of Veteran Services, said. “Finding places for people to stay is getting harder and harder.” 

Organizations that provide resources from veteran benefits, nonperishable food, winter clothes, career opportunities, and more all took part in the Portland Homeless Veterans' Mobile Stand Down.

Robert Garcia is one man who learned more about veteran resources Wednesday. The Army vet served for three years in the 1970s when he turned 18. His family fled from Cuba as Fidel Castro gained power.

Garcia took advantage of the free haircuts provided by Sports Clips and walked away with new winter boots and other supplies. He is also one of the veterans that took advantage of housing programs.

He lives at a new apartment building where Scarborough Downs used to host horse races.

“I went through a program, so now I only have to pay 33 percent of rent," Garcia said.

Credit: NCM

He thanked his case worker and other veteran resource officials for helping him find housing and find stability in his life.

Maine Veterans Affairs also provided free medical checkups for the vets who came to the event.

“We really just want to reengage and reintegrate them into the VA health care system with our wrap-around services," Chief of Voluntary Service for VA Maine Kylie Higgins said.

The theme of providing stability for our vets was apparent Wednesday. Leo Deon is the Veteran's Program Manager at the Maine Department of Labor and had a booth at each Mobile Stand Down event.

“A career, a profession will help them long term and again provide them with that stability they’re looking for," he said. 

The final Mobile Stand Down of the month will take place Oct. 26 at the Sanford Vet Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

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