By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News
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The event represented the annual Stand Down for Veterans sponsored by Voices for Veterans, which also puts on events in May in Forks and in October in Port Angeles.
“We think of this as a family reunion where every vet is a long lost cousin that you haven’t seen in years,” said John Braasch, Voices for Veterans president.
“The fellows and gals that come in here may be a little bit down, so they deserve the lightheartedness and the ability to smile, talk and reminisce.”
Braasch estimated that around 130 people would take advantage of the services offered by about 25 vendors Monday.
Services included basics such as food and clothing, along with advice in legal matters, transportation, health and employment.
Free haircuts were also offered by the staff of the Victorian Clipper Barbershop in Port Townsend.
While the event is intended for homeless veterans, it can be a resource for those who don’t have local access to the services for which they qualify, Braasch said.
Last year, a pregnant homeless veteran arrived at the event with almost nothing to her name and left with a place to stay and access to prenatal care, Braasch said.
Jefferson County Deputy Prosecutor Chris Ashcraft was on loan from his regular job, advising attendees about landlord-tenant issues, divorce and access to services.
Ashcraft said that he identifies himself as an attorney and divulges his employer if asked at the event.
“It’s not a conflict because their problems don’t have to do with criminal charges,” Ashcraft said.
“But it’s good to resolve some of these issues before they become a problem and they end up in the system.”
New to the Stand Down was George Coffee, a mobility manager for the Veterans Administration Health Care System, who was advising veterans on transportation options for health care and treatment.
Coffee said that qualifying veterans can receive mileage reimbursement or, if they don’t have a vehicle, a lift to their appointments.
“A lot of times, the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing and it creates a gap or an overlap,” Coffee said.
“Putting everything in one place is a better way to take care of the veterans.”
Mike Hinojos, a Vietnam veteran, said the event gives local veterans who are living in the woods needed resources.
“Veterans have bee abused since George Washington’s time,” he said.
“Many of them reject the system, and that’s why they are out there right now, so we need to help them any we can.”
Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or firstname.lastname@example.org.