Faron Perryman lost his house.
The 60-year-old veteran had spent two weeks living on the streets before he attended the Stand Down event for veterans on Wednesday in northeast Gainesville. He learned he was eligible to move into the new housing the following day after speaking with VETSPACE Inc.
“It doesn’t get better than this,” Perryman said. “It just doesn’t.”
Over 60 organizations volunteered goods and services to the Stand Down event held at the Martin Luther King Jr. Multipurpose Center, according to Alachua County Veteran Services Director Kim Davis. The organizations offered assistance to about 130 veterans by introducing them to housing and employment opportunities, counseling, shelter and medical resources.
“This is my day. This is what I do,” Davis said. “This event brings purpose in my life to do good for our veterans.”
The Stand Down event has taken place in Alachua County for over a decade, Davis said. In the last four years, the event has tripled the number of organizations involved. Davis said the key is to have a variety of resources to ensure the veterans get the assistance they need. Ninety percent of the organizations that participated were from Alachua County.
Elks Lodge began collecting items months ago. Davis said they filled about seven tables with donations including warm clothes and blankets.
Other organizations that took part included the Vietnam Veterans of America, American Legion Post 230, the Marine Corps League and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
The resource fair was originally scheduled for before the holidays, according to Davis, but Alachua County Veteran Services rescheduled the event for January due to Hurricane Irma.
Davis said because of the cold weather this winter, she feels holding the event in January is a better idea anyway. She believes it guarantees homeless veterans a warm place to stay rather than limiting them to the streets.
In addition to the Stand Down event, Alachua County has several programs that assist veterans, even though they are not specific to veterans. They include the Crisis Center, the Victim Services and Rape Crisis Center, counseling services, social services, the Foster Grandparent Program and the Community Stabilization Program.
Davis, being a veteran herself, believes it is easier to receive help from other veterans. She said once you become a veteran, you are part of a family, and Alachua County wants to take care of that family.
“A veteran is someone who wrote a blank check to the United States of America,” Davis said. “And when a veteran comes home, it’s nice to know that someone will give them a hand if
they need it.”