BAKERSFIELD, Calif. -
Military veterans from around the county used the 14th Annual Kern County Veterans Stand Down as a chance to get a wide variety of services all in one place.
Local experts said the homeless vet population is growing and Thursday's stand down helped homeless vets get assistance with everything from haircuts to housing.
"You may have a little snag in life and need a little help," said Vietnam vet Joseph Jones.
The event was organized by the California Veteran Assistance Foundation and the Red Cross.
Vet experts estimated in 2011 that there were 179 homeless veterans in Kern County and they expect that number to go up when they take another head count early next year.
"I was there for a longtime; I was homeless," Jones said.
Local veterans' advocates said the reasons for homelessness among vets are complex. Jones said he was homeless for thirty years.
"I would always stay with a relative or a friend or something. I wasn't actually on the streets per se, but as far as having my own place, the last time I had my own place was in the '80s," Jones said.
Experts said inconsistencies in counting homeless veterans over the years means there aren’t any hard numbers on the problem, but they do know the majority of homeless vets never served in combat.
As for Jones, he said a health scare made him realize it was time to get off the streets.
"I can’t do that no more, man, I am 60 years old. I got medical issues now. I can’t afford to be out there any more like that," he said.
Jones said he beat addiction and has been drug free for over a year.
"Every now and then I may have a beer or something but as far as smoking marijuana and crack and all that I can’t do that no more," Jones said.
Jones said two weeks ago he moved into his own apartment.
He wants to thank everyone who was at the event for honoring our country's veterans.
"If they only help one person and actually get them on their feet it’s been a success," he said.
Local experts said the current focus is to help vets before they become homeless.
They said there is now federal money available specifically to help vets keep their housing.