COLLIER COUNTY, Fla. — Collier County aid organizations are trying to locate as many homeless veterans in the county as possible. Monday, over a dozen volunteers with Wounded Warriors and other groups went to bus stops, gas stations and shelters in the area where homeless populations are known to hang out, hoping to connect the vets with services to help them.
"We're getting them enrolled in the health care system, and getting them the benefits they deserve," said veteran and volunteer Sarah Blanchette.
Blancheete said they're also helping other homeless people along the way, passing out backpacks filled with toiletries, snacks, and information on medical services and housing.
But the focus of the volunteers is on trying to get an idea of how many of Collier's homeless are veterans, in hopes of being accepted for potential housing grants.
Among the volunteers were Kim Hayes and her daughter-in-law Kylie. Kim's son Steven was a veteran who served in Afghanistan, where he was injured in a parachute accident. Kim said Steven died three years ago from an accidental overdose while back in the U.S.
"Several months before he died, he was living on and off the streets here in Naples," she said. "Kylie was his high school sweetheart. So we're highly motivated."
Kim said the volunteers found five homeless veterans Monday morning, and expected to find more when they went back out in the afternoon.
"Sometimes all people need is a little hope," she said.
Anyone who knows of a veteran who is homeless in Collier can call the tip line for the Collier County Homeless Coalition at 239-263-9363.