The city of Maricopa held its inaugural Veterans’ Town Hall Saturday at Maricopa Rotary Park to help veterans unaware of available resources and get them started in the getting services.
There are more than 2,000 veterans living in Maricopa according to the 2010 U.S. census, said Paul Jepson, assistant to the city manager.
“If we can get one vet that comes down here and we help him or her get their benefits, this is all worth it,” Jepson said.
Laura Brant works with Community Action Human Resources Agency, which provides services for veterans who are homeless or at risk. Her agency was one of four offering veterans’ services.
The Pinal County homeless outreach coordinator, Brant said her group provides emergency shelter and a path for permanent housing for veterans.
Veterans may not always seek help for their issues, she said.
“You didn’t hesitate to put on that uniform and protect this country so don’t hesitate to have this country help you when you come back,” Brant said.
Robert Barnes is the interim director at the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services and a lifelong member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion.
Barnes said he became involved because he was approached by council members from Maricopa.
Barnes said veterans aren’t always aware of how they can access the resources available to them.
The town hall provided veterans with benefits counselors to help guide them and start the process, he said.
“I think if they are hesitant it’s because they don’t have the help or assistance they need to go through with this process,” Barnes said.
During the town hall, Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles announced that his office will work with the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office to identify and help veterans who have been arrested.
Voyles said once a suspect or defendant is identified as a veteran then his office can make a determination on whether or not that individual can be rehabilitated.
It would then be up to that person, Voyles said whether he or she wants to take part in the Veterans Group program.
“If there’s something we can help them with, I want to,” Voyles said. “I want our veterans to succeed.”
Voyles said the long-term goal is to get the courts on-board with this program.
“Juvenile court is rehabilitation; adult court is punishment, that’s the way the system is set up,” Voyles said. “What I’d like to do for veterans is to find a way to rehabilitate first before we punish.”
Voyles said that the Veterans Group would be the first of its kind in Arizona.U.S Air Force veteran Christopher Foster said he attended Saturday’s town hall to show his support for his fellow veterans in Maricopa. It’s important to have these events so people know where to get help, he said.
Foster said when he came home in 2006 he didn’t have anyone to help him.
He found work by word of mouth through his friends and was unaware of any resources available to him.
“I’m all about supporting veterans,” Foster said. It’s important for veterans to be proactive in helping their fellow veterans.
Councilwoman and veteran Julia Gusse, along with the help of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 12043, the American Legion Post No. 133 and the American Legion Auxiliary Post No. 133, helped set up the event.
More information is available by contacting Jepson at paul.jepson@maricopa-AZ.gov, Maricopa Veterans Center, Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services and Community Action Human Resources Agency, Pinal County.