Reaching out to vets

Homeless veterans and others in need will have a chance to get free haircuts, free food, dental care and more at an event scheduled from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. Tuesday, July 12, at 601 N. Grape St. in Medford.

The event will also feature connections to assistance programs for veterans, but it's not limited to veterans.

“The event is open to anyone,” said Matthew Havniear, ACCESS peer support specialist. “Our focus is veterans ... but we’re not going to turn anyone away.”

The outreach event is a collaboration between ACCESS, Jackson County’s Community Action agency, and Rogue Valley Veterans and Community Outreach. The groups put on an event the second Tuesday of every month, but this month's shindig will be much larger than normal, according to Havniear.

Participants will find free breakfast, free barbecue lunch, free haircuts, a mobile health and dental clinic, live music, credit counseling and representatives from various assistance agencies. Some of the resources that will be available include housing assistance, emergency utility assistance, employment help, Oregon Health Plan Enrollment and Supplemental Nutrition Program Enrollment.

“When you’re homeless in the Rogue Valley, it can be hard to get to all of these different services,” said Havniear. “Having a one-stop shop allows them to utilize and access all the services easily.”

The regular second-Tuesday gathering usually does not include music and lunch, but all other resources are available monthly. The program is available because of a Supportive Services for Veteran Families grant ACCESS received in 2015. The grant was given with the aim of ending veteran homelessness in Jackson County.

ACCESS will accept donations during the event. With the money raised, ACCESS will purchase “outreach bags” that contain items such as hygiene kits, snacks and clothing. ACCESS workers conduct a homeless outreach program weekly with the bags, which they hand out around the Rogue Valley where homeless veterans tend to congregate, using them as an icebreaker for conversations about all of the available assistance programs.

“A lot of veterans return from war and may be dealing with major life-changing issues, mental instability, addiction — there’s lots and lots of reasons why veterans end up on the streets,” said Havniear.

Anywhere from 50 to 100 unsheltered veterans are sleeping on the streets each night in Jackson County, according to Havniear.

“The vacancy rate for apartments in Medford is something like one percent,” said Havniear. “There is a lot of competition for affordable one-bedroom apartments.”

In addition, some do not have a rental history or a job straight out of the military, and they’re competing with people who do, according to Havniear.

“Hopefully by bringing the community together in events like 'second Tuesday,' we can see a positive impact,” said Havniear.

For more information, contact Havniear at 541-200-5152 or mhavniear@accesshelps.org.

Contact Mail Tribune news intern Caitlin Fowlkes at cfowlkes@dailytidings.com.

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