According a 2016 preliminary report on the status of veteran homelessness in North Carolina, over 850 veterans throughout the state are homeless. Of those, five percent reside in Cumberland County.
The Community Homeless Stand Down, a collaborative effort of Fayetteville Veterans Affairs Medical Center and the city of Fayetteville, was created to provide homeless veterans with access to a variety of agencies and services that can make a difference in their lives.
The event was held at Fayetteville’s downtown Festival Park because of its convenience to the city’s homeless population, Aug. 24.
“We know a lot of the homeless population is around this area, it is easily accessed ... most people know where Festival Park is,” explained Mary Fisher Murray, Health Care for Homeless Veterans coordinator, FVAMC, who is also a member of the U.S. Army Reserve.
Capt. Amaquah Bonsu, a Fort Bragg Soldier, formerly with XVIII Airborne Corps, attended the Community Homeless Stand Down event as a part of an internship with Family Endeavors.
Bonsu is attending Fayetteville State University through the Army Career Satisfaction Program, with the Commissioned Officer Graduate Program, or GRADSO, to pursue a degree in social work.
“I am an active-duty Soldier and I just want to make sure that my other fellow brothers and sisters in arms, that are not actually serving right now, are still taken care of,” said Bonsu.
Retired Marine Sidney Lanier attended the event in the hopes of locating someone to assist him in resolving outstanding issues with his driver’s license.
Lanier explained that this event gives those in need hope.
“It gives the veterans hope that when they are in a tough spot there are resources to help them get back on their feet,” said Lanier.
One attendee was at the event hoping to give back and contribute to a community that helped her when she was in need.
With support from some of the programs represented at the event, Bridget Patterson, a disabled veteran who served as an active-duty Army service member for four years and served 13 years in the U.S. Army Reserve, got off the streets, settled in a place of her own and has accomplished educational and career goals.
“I was homeless when I moved here … I think that a lot of the veterans that come out here are seeking help to get off the streets and to help with drug addiction. A lot of them are self-medicating,” explained Patterson.
The Community Homeless Stand Down event welcomed over 375 attendees, according to registration volunteers.
It offered a variety of resources to help homeless veterans including, showers, haircuts, manicures, clothes, food, the opportunity to connect to different veteran support programs/medical services and more.
“Not only did we provide some food and some clothing, but we make sure they can connect to resources and services so that we can help eliminate the reasons why they’re homeless,” said Fisher Murray.