Roe event assists ‘Those Who Have Served’
Published 12:03 am Saturday, May 9, 2015
JOHNSON CITY — At a special conference Friday, local veterans got the chance to meet and talk to local, state and federal agencies about the programs they offer to assist veterans.
“Services for Those Who Have Served” is a conference hosted by U.S. Rep. Phil Roe as a way to help East Tennessee veterans. The event was held Friday morning at Munsey Memorial United Methodist Church in Johnson City.
While the congressman was not able to attend the event himself, a representative with Roe’s field office was on hand to meet with veterans, and Roe sent a pre-recorded message, which was played.
“This program today is to honor those who served,” Roe said. “At the end of Vietnam, our country did not do a good job of supporting our veterans. Today, we do a much better job of supporting them.”
The conference featured four panel discussions on housing opportunities, support services, employment opportunities for veterans and small business and loan opportunities.
Several veterans attended the conference, each seeking help with their particular needs.
A search for affordable housing brought Air Force veteran Rufus McClain of Johnson City to the conference.
“I’m on Social Security income, a very low income,” he said, adding he was looking for rental assistance or even home ownership assistance.
“I just need to find something secure,” he said. “I’ve got to get out of where I’m at.”
Employment was also a large focus for some who were attending the event.
“I just got laid off at the V.A.,” said Joe Vermeal, an Army veteran from Johnson City. “I’m real interested in the employment opportunities and the housing opportunities.”
Tom Light, a Navy veteran from Greeneville, also came to the event hoping to find work.
“I’m an unemployed vet and I’m trying to see if I can find a job opportunity,” Light said, adding he is currently homeless and living at the Salvation Army. “I’m not so worried about housing because if I can find a job, I can get housing.”
While Light has two college degrees — one in meteorology and one in computer science — he said he is still unable to find a job. He has considered opening his own business but would need help with that also.
“There’s a small business workshop, so maybe I can get some information and start my own business, maybe a computer repair shop,” Light said. “I’m just looking for an opportunity.”
The presentation on small business assistance also drew Dick Scott to the conference.
“I’m looking to get financing for my farm,” said Scott, an Army veteran from Johnson City.
Scott, who will turn 90 years old in just a few days, is hoping to start his own organic farming business.
For Tommy Street, an Army veteran from Johnson City, the visit to the conference was twofold — getting assistance for himself and spending time with his fellow veterans.
“I like coming to events like this because it gives me a chance to meet some of the old veterans,” Street said.
When he heard about the event and agencies that would be meeting with veterans, Street said he decided to come check it out for himself. “I’m trying to get help with getting my disability started,” he said.
The event, which was hosted by Roe, was presented by the Tennessee Small Business Development Center at East Tennessee State University.
The participating agencies were: the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; U.S. Small Business Administration, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Tennessee Department of Veterans Affairs and the City of Johnson City.
Representatives of Eastern Eight Community Development Corporation and the Appalachian Regional Coalition on Homelessness were also on hand to meet with veterans.