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Future Veterans' Stand Downs may expand to serve general homeless population

Two men and a woman stand around a table in a gymnasium.
Tom Flanigan
WFSU Public Media
Ben Bradwell with Leon County Veterans Services (on the left) providing information at the Veterans' Stand Down

Florida A&M’s Lawson Athletic Center was the site of a special event Saturday to help the area’s homeless military veterans. The recent growth in the overall homeless population in the area has organizers looking to expand the event’s outreach.

Ben Bradwell, division director with Leon County Veterans Services said he’s seeing more and more people in need of help. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

“My office is very busy! I guess with the way Tallahassee is treating our veterans, I think a lot of people are moving to Tallahassee to get these good services.”

The downside, said Jo Gewanter, outreach manager with the Big Bend Homeless Coalition, is the stress being put on local service providers.

“Homeless services here in Tallahassee is definitely seeing an expansion. Lots of people coming through are looking for services. Lots of people becoming homeless or experiencing homelessness at the moment.”

So Stand Down Coordinator Bill Eichhoefer said there are plans to spread a wider net.

“Eventually we want to expand it to include the entire homeless population. We’re working on that. There are so many people who need us.”

And one thing every service provider at this year’s Veterans’ Stand Down agreed on was that the need for more affordable housing is critical.

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Tom Flanigan has been with WFSU News since 2006, focusing on covering local personalities, issues, and organizations. He began his broadcast career more than 30 years before that and covered news for several radio stations in Florida, Texas, and his home state of Maryland.

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