TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - About 300 homeless veterans took advantage of a resource fair sponsored by Tucson Veterans Helping Veterans, an organization made up of federal, state and local service groups.
The fair was held at the Desert Inn near Congress and I-10.
It included dozens of vendors, social service agencies, mental health organizations and even lawyers providing free legal help.
The Gospel Rescue Mission and the Salvation Army also provided food, clothing, and other resources, along with free haircuts and lunch.
But the talk at the fair was the housing first program, which was started by the city of Tucson, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Veteran's Administration.
Tucson was one of the 25 cities chosen for the program to end homelessness among vets by 2015. It failed to achieve that goal, but has provided free or subsidized housing to an estimated 2,000 veterans.
58-year-old Scott Powers is one of those.
A vet who served in Central and South America during the 1970s, he found himself homeless when his wife died and he was involved in an accident.
He has since stumbled on the Tucson homeless coalition's attempt to provide housing. Having a place to live has changed his outlook on life.
"It's great being able to have clean clothes, a shower, a home where I can regroup, a base of operations, cook my own food, have independence," he said.
He now volunteers to help convince others of the value of getting a place to live.
"Not everyone wants to get off the streets," he said.
Some of that he believes is due to PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, suffered by many former combat vets.
"You don't trust anybody or anything," he said. "It becomes an ingrained first response."
But by volunteering, Powers hopes to gain the trust of others, who can then get help not only with homelessness, but also mental health counseling.
The next resource fair for homeless vets will be in February and is billed as a job fair.
Now that more and more of these vets are getting off the streets, getting cleaned up and getting counseling, it's time for some of them to get a job.