BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - A long time Coast event that helps veterans and the homeless is expanding into new territory. Organizers say the first time the Homeless Veterans Stand Down was held somewhere other than on the V.A. grounds. The goal was get more community involvement.
Most days Stephen Dummer works as a corporate attorney. On Wednesday, the president of Harrison County Young Lawyers Association was a volunteer giving veterans someone to turn to for free legal advice.
"When you're surrounded by stacks of papers all day and you see only your little close group of friends, you miss out on a lot that's happening in the rest of the community," said Dummer. "This event is a great eye opener for all of us at Young Lawyers because we're able to see people who really need our help."
Organizers say they moved the Homeless Veterans Stand Down to the Coliseum for more space and to encourage more community volunteers to participate.
Sam Tucker is the event chairperson. He said, "Stand Down everywhere else is the country is a community driven event. It is given by the community with some assistance from the V.A."
"That's why this year is the first year that the community has taken hold and taken charge of the event," Tucker said. "We're going to have it out in the community where everyone can come and participate."
Organizers say in the past most people collected the free supplies and left. So this year, there was a greater push to promote the area service agencies which help the homeless.
"It's hard when you're homeless to watch the t.v. and to see what's all going on," said Leigh Ann Johnson with the Biloxi V.A. "Even those of us who are not homeless, it's hard to know what's all out here. So this has been a great learning experience not only for the veteran population, but for the community partners who got to come together in putting together this event."
John Brooks, a veteran, said he was touched by the number of everyday people who came out to help.
"The civilian volunteers have come out here and shown their support for the homeless people and also for the veterans," Brooks said. "It means a lot to me. I served my country and they're serving me now so I appreciate it."
The event was open to both veterans and homeless people who were not veterans. However, officials say not all the services were available to the non-veterans.