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County, Nonprofits Hold Expo To Help Homeless Veterans

Volunteers distribute free clothing to homeless veterans.

Photo: Volunteers distribute free clothing to homeless veterans.

Charlotte's homeless shelters are overflowing as the weather takes a wet turn toward winter. Yesterday, Mecklenburg County's Community Support Services division brought several dozen nonprofits, health clinics and other groups together for an expo to help the city's homeless veterans.

When living in a homeless shelter or on the street, little things sometimes go by the wayside. . . like a good trim, or a good read. Homeless veteran Dennis Pinnix getting a free haircut from Natron Johnson, a student at the Hairstyling Institute of Charlotte. Half a dozen students from the Hairstyling Institute of Charlotte volunteered their time yesterday to give haircuts to homeless veterans. The staff of the Plaza Midwood branch of the public library gave away donated books. "Our primary goal is to make people aware of the free services we offer through the library," said Plaza Midwood branch manager Peter Jareo.

The IRS set up a table to help homeless veterans collect tax refunds they missed out on because they haven't had a regular mailing address. Health clinics, mental health centers, advocacy groups and caseworkers from the Department of Veterans Affairs sat for hours in the Grady Cole Center yesterday to help nearly 400 homeless vets.

A snaking line formed midday for the event highlight - brand new clothes distributed for free by cheerful volunteers. 3rd Infantry Division veteran Wenton King served in the Gulf War. He got in line for some new winter boots. "At the current time I'm a homeless veteran," explained King. "My mom passed away and left her home, but I couldn't afford the mortgage, so I came here for opportunities." He left the event excited about a contact he'd made with a job training and placement program through Goodwill Industries.

Also yesterday, a street publication debuted in Charlotte called "Speak Up." The magazine's publishers are following a model similar to street papers in other cities where homeless people can purchase the magazine at half price and keep the profit from each $3 copy they sell.