U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Zionsville, made a brief stop in the city Friday touting legislation passed by the Senate Tuesday that aims to help clothe veterans.
Toomey introduced a version of the Clothe a Homeless Hero Act on Nov. 28 and was a sponsor of final legislation that passed the Senate.
The bipartisan bill requires the Transportation Security Administration to distribute unclaimed clothing left at airport security checkpoints to local veterans organizations.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, about 75,000 vets are homeless on any given night, and about 20,000 Iraq and Afghanistan vets have been homeless within the last five years.
"It's a small step; it's a modest step, but I think it will help," Toomey said to a room full of local veterans who gathered in the Lycoming County commissioners' meeting room at Executive Plaza, 330 Pine St. "I don't think there could be a better time to think about this than the holiday season."
One veteran who was present at the announcement, city resident Kenneth Perks, who served in the Army's 82nd Airborne Division in the late 1950s to mid-1960s, said he supports Toomey's efforts.
"We're up for that. We've been up for that for a long time," he said of programs to assist veterans who need extra help.
Toomey also said that he has introduced legislation - the idea of which came from veterans themselves - that will help match veterans' job skills with employer needs. He said that all too often, veterans have a difficult time finding the right work when they return from duty.
"There's a subset of our population that has a really pressing problem with getting fully engaged with our economy and having jobs that are a good fit, and that's returning veterans," Toomey said. "When they have come back, in way too many cases, they have not been able to find the work that's a good fit for their skills, for their knowledge, for their talents."
The senator said a website will be created in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Labor and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs where veterans can input their skills to be matched with employer needs.
He said the legislation has passed in the Senate and he is hopeful for passage in the House of Representatives.