A recent survey found that there are more than 80 homeless veterans living in Mississippi. Veteran's groups are working to bring that number down to zero.
Joe Greer served as a machine gun specialist in the Army. When he was discharged from the military he turned to drugs and eventually became homeless. However, today Greer says he's back on his feet.
"I'm living well today,” says Greer. "The things I should have done 20 years ago I'm doing today. I have a home that I live in, and today I'm happy. I'm married now, and got a job up here for a time. They helped me out a lot."
Greer says he owes his success to a program run by the G.V. "Sonny" Montgomery Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Jackson. The Stand Down, as it's known, is a semi-annual event designed to provide homeless veterans with food, shelter, clothing and medical screenings. Stand Downs also put veterans in touch with other service providers like housing and job centers. Charisse Myers coordinates the program for the Jackson VA. She says Mississippi has made a significant dent in its homeless vet population.
"In 2012 we had 156 literally homeless, unsheltered homeless veterans in the state," Myers says. "Whereas in 2013's count we had 81. The numbers are dropping. We are working really hard with community agencies to get veterans housed. Not just to get a roof over their head, or shelter them in some type of community shelter but to actually get them permanent supportive housing."
Alex Rickard recently joined the program. Over the past six months he went from sleeping on other people's couches to having his own apartment. He says he's thankful for the Stand Down.
"A burdens been lifted off a whole lot," Rickard says. "As soon as I moved here it felt better. I was on my own. It was up to me to provide for my mother, and then my daughter came up here to visit and I was able provide for her. I haven't been able to do that in a while."
According to data collected by the VA, veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to become homeless.