A group seeking to help homeless veterans needs a rapid re-supply of winter coats and warm socks.
The El Paso County Homeless Veterans Coalition needs dozens of coats and an arsenal of socks to equip the 200 veterans expected at the group's annual "Stand Down" Oct. 17. The gear would have been purchased already, but a grant money is in short supply this year, leaving the coalition about $8,000 shy of its fundraising goal for the event.
"That's a lot of money to make up right now," said Dennis McCormack, of coalition partner The Homefront Cares. "Our biggest need is winter coats."
The annual stand down held at the city auditorium, allows veterans to get equipment, a hair cut and a hot meal. It also has helped dozens of veterans get off the streets for good.
Organizers at the event with the federal Veterans Affairs department to connect veterans with programs that can get their lives back on track, from housing assistance to treatment for mental trauma.
"The big focus is not on handing out clothing," McCormack said. "We have all the agencies there."
But coats remain a huge need in a county where winter cold can kill.
"The farmers almanac and others are predicting a bitter winter," McCormack said.
For coats, organizers need all sizes from men's small on up. New coats are preferred, but clean, used coats in good repair are welcome.
Organizers say they could use as many as 150 coats.
New, warm socks are needed by the dozen. They hope to hand out 600 pairs.
Cash is as welcome as clothing, McCormack said.
Veterans make up a significant piece of America's homeless population, with VA estimating that more 13 percent of the homeless population served in the military.
The federal Department of Housing and Urban Development counted 1,512 homeless veterans in Colorado a year ago.
While the problem may be large, McCormack fears that Colorado Springs may be reaching the limits of its charitable giving.
Fires and floods have tapped community resources this year, and a generous public may be running out of money to give.
"The community is spread pretty thin," he said.
But, in its 15th year, the Stand Down, has been a big draw for community and military supporters.
"We'll do as well as we can," McCormack pledged.