Kitsap to hold open house for veterans

County program will provide free dental screenings, housing assistance and employment help for service members.

On Saturday, Kitsap is hosting its bi-annual “Stand Down” event, where local veterans can get everything from housing assistance to haircuts and learn about the myriad benefits they may be eligible for.

According to U.S. Census information, there are more than 33,000 veterans living in Kitsap County – more than 17 percent of the adult population.

Andrew Sargent, a Vietnam veteran, retired attorney and coordinator for the event, said it is open to veterans whether or not they have their ID cards.

“We figure out their income level and what they need,” he said.

Sargent, a county employee, runs the Kitsap County Veteran Assistance Program which helps provide temporary shelter for veterans, facilitates Stand Downs and organizes other events like the annual “Run to Tahoma” honoring the fallen on Memorial Day. He also connects and administers support to veterans with help from federal, state and local resources.

With help from the Kitsap County Veteran Assistance Program, former service members can receive employment help, medical assistance, housing assistance and free meals, Sargent said.

On Saturday, veterans will be given hot meals and services like free dental work, and counseling and substance abuse referrals.

A lawyer with the Northwest Justice Project will be there to provide free legal assistance to veterans — for example, to help upgrade their discharges.

Sargent said some veterans were discharged dishonorably due to behaviors that were likely caused by PTSD.

“A fair number of people got pushed out under bad conduct discharges,” he said.

Other services provided will be education and training resources, and free personal care items like toiletries. Free ORCA transportation cards will be handed out for those in need, too.

The Stand Down begins at 10 a.m. at the Sheridan Park Community Center, 680 Lebo Boulevard, Bremerton. For more information, contact Andrew Sargent at 360-337-4811. Free breakfast and lunch will be provided to veterans.