JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Army veteran Alfred Miller was all smiles Saturday as he was pampered with a haircut during the city’s annual “Homeless Veterans Stand Down” event.
“It feels great! I cut it with some scissors a couple weeks ago, so this is special,” Miller said.
Miller was one of hundreds of veterans taking part in the event, which included health screenings, new clothes, shoes and a hot meal at the Jacksonville Fairgrounds.
The event connected homeless and at-risk veterans with the services they need to overcome challenges and help them get back on their feet.
Army veteran Ami Ritter now volunteers with Northeast Florida Women Veterans and said she knows what it’s like to need help.
“I transitioned in 2003, so I know what it means to be a homeless veteran,” Ritter said. “I couch surfed on my father and stepmother’s couch with my young son at the time. So, seeing this and being able to come and give back to the community and say, ‘Hey, you’re not alone. There’s others here if you need to talk. We’re here to help you.’”
Veterans could get mental health services, hearing screenings, cots to sleep on, a sleeping bag and a mat.
Harrison Conyers with the city’s Military Affairs and Veterans Department said there’s believed to be an estimated 300 to 400 homeless veterans in Jacksonville. But the numbers could be higher.
Conyers said events like this are a way to say thank you.
“We have so many events that, as a country—you know, July 4th and Memorial Day—and we don’t really realize, you know, those days where we celebrate are built on the freedoms these people established for us,” Conyers said. “This is our way to let them know we appreciate them, and we appreciate what they did.”