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Gulf Coast Homeless Veterans Get Appreciation, Supplies and Services During Stand Down

By Rhonda Miller | Published 21 Oct 2011 09:24pm | comments
Navy social worker Ruth Goldberg, right, is also a licensed cosmetologist who volunteers her skills in the hair-cutting tent at Homeless Veterans Stand Down at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Biloxi. Army veteran Derrial Agee gets a haircut. Agee was homeless for a while, but now has a place to live and is going back to school to train for a new career.

Hundreds of Gulf Coast veterans who fought to protect America’s freedom are now struggling with physical and emotional problems, many of them living on the street. MPB’s Rhonda Miller reports the Homeless Veterans Stand Down is one day when those who served are given a safe place to get the care and appreciation they earned.

In her camouflage uniform, Ruth Goldberg is expertly running the razor in the hair-cutting tent at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Biloxi.

"I’m a licensed cosmetologist, that’s how I supported myself through college," Goldberg says. "But in the military, I’m a licensed clinical social worker. Yes, I’m cutting hair…"

Goldberg and hundreds of other military and community volunteers offer their talents and camaraderie during the Gulf Coast Stand Down

Derrial Agee is getting the haircut. She was a cook in the Army and served in Korea. Agee was homeless for a while, but now has a place to live and has gone back to school to train for a new job. To stretch her limited budget, she came to get some supplies.

"Personal hygiene, blankets, mainly winter clothing, you know while I’m searching for jobs, so I’ll be warm," Agee says.

The Homeless Veterans Stand Down is a national project that began as a retreat for military units returning from combat in Vietnam. Veterans get free medical check-ups and referrals to social services for problems like drug and alcohol abuse, or post-traumatic stress disorder. They get respect and family-style meals.

"... to come through and a have nice warm meal for lunch."

About 300 veterans arrived at the Gulf Coast Stand Down in pick-up trucks, cars, wheelchairs and on bicycles with seats wrapped in gray duct tape.  The more the better, says Margaret Scurfield, the homeless program coordinator for the V.A. in Biloxi.

"Our goal is to make sure that our veterans, the ones who have served our country so that we can be free, get the services they’re entitled to, but also that we put an end to homelessness," Scurfield says.

Officials at the V.A. say there are about 300-to-400 homeless veterans on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Images

Navy social worker Ruth Goldberg, right, is also a licensed cosmetologist who volunteers her skills in the hair-cutting tent at Homeless Veterans Stand Down at the Department of Veterans Affairs in Biloxi. Army veteran Derrial Agee gets a haircut. Agee was homeless for a while, but now has a place to live and is going back to school to train for a new career.


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