A bodybuilding and fitness competition coming to the Rome City Auditorium on Sunday, July 28 supports a project that gets homeless vets off the street and on their feet again.

The Physical Culture Association, United States, is an organization for bodybuilding and fitness which puts the athletes first. The upcoming competition, “PCA Georgia Muscle,” will feature men’s categories such as junior body builder, first timers and novice bodybuilders, masters, junior/men’s/masters physique as well as a disability category. Women’s categories include junior bikini, ladies bikini, toned/athletic/trained figure and disability.

The event is an invitational competition with the winner advancing to nationals.

Last week, Pat Johnson was in Rome promoting the event. He’s the president and founder of Homeless Veterans Initiative of Alabama and said the Physical Culture Association supports and offers direct services to HVI.

“We’re glad to promote events like this because the PCA supports and donates to the Homeless Veterans Initiative of Alabama,” Johnson said.

Johnson, once a homeless vet himself, said the Homeless Veterans Initiative does crisis case management for veterans across the country, but primarily throughout the Southeast, providing a variety of resources. They also do veteran community awareness and advocacy.

“We find them all over the place,” he said. “We find them under bridges, in tunnels, in tents. We go to wherever they are as soon as we can. We ID them, put them in the system and then we try to help them with the things they need. We try to find them a job, a place to stay and other things that will help them get back on their feet.”

Another interesting aspect of the organization is the Veterans Farming Initiative — an actual working farm in Alabama, a startup by veterans to explore the therapeutic purposes agriculture in the community.

“The goal is agri-therapy,” Johnson said. “Once these vets are identified and stabilized, they come to the farm and work on projects. It’s agricultural therapy. It creates a sense of purpose and they get to literally see the fruits of their labors. Of course our primary goal is to stabilize these veterans and help them secure housing and employment, but if we can also help with their quality of life, then we’d like to do that.”

Johnson served in the Navy from 2002 to 2009 and was homeless himself for a time. He said Homeless Veterans International officially came together in 2017 but prior to that he’d been doing case management and helping veterans using money from out of his own pocket.

He projected that through 2019 the organization will have assisted more than 700 veterans. Johnson said those veterans were homeless because of a variety of issues including mental health, substance abuse, sexual deviance, lack of motivation or hope and lack of family and social support.

“We want to show people that it doesn’t take millions of dollars to make a difference,” Johnson said. “It takes time and effort.”

The PCA Georgia Muscle bodybuilding and fitness competition will take place at the Rome City Auditorium on Sunday, July 28. Tickets are $35. For tickets or additional information, visit online at www.officialpcausa.com.

For more information about the Homeless Veterans Initiative of Alabama, search “Homeless Veterans Initiative of Alabama” or “Veterans Farming Initiative” on Facebook.