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Collier County focused on veteran mental health, vets want decrease in homelessness

Collier County has plans to improve the lives of veterans when they come home from serving our country. Veterans we spoke to say, while the plan to bring more options is great, there is still a lot of work to be done.

Collier County has developed a five-year plan to help improve mental health of veterans, and local veterans also want to see a greater effort to decrease veteran homelessness.

“I joined at 18. I’m out at 31,” said veteran Angela Orr. “And I’m going, ‘What do I do now?’ That was my whole life.”

Orr served in the Gulf War. When she returned to her home in Naples, she didn’t know where to get help.

“If you’re not informed of something, you can’t get there if the information isn’t provided,” Orr said.

Orr is among the many veterans who struggle with PTSD or traumatic brain injuries.

“I was in Korea in [1953] a machine gunner,” veteran George Swanson said. “It’s a big problem, PTSD. And a lot of people don’t realize how deep it is.”

With Collier’s five-year plan being set into motion, local veterans want to see veteran homelessness in the area decrease to further improve the quality of life for veterans in Southwest Florida.

“I was homeless for nine months,” Orr said. “I would like to see a housing unit for veterans.”

As Collier County continues to develop, Swanson said it actually has a negative effect on homeless veterans in the area.

“A big problem I think is that they are building in areas where homeless veterans are living,” Swanson said. “And they are being dispersed.”

Veterans like Orr and Swanson hope veteran care continues to improve in Collier County because it’s what keeps them going every day.

“This is my support system, and I’m so grateful it’s here,” Orr said.

MORE: Collier County – Mental Health … Five Year Strategic Plan

Reporter:Taylor Smith
Writer:Jack Lowenstein
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