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VETS Canada aims to get homeless veterans off the streets

Post by Guest on Fri 30 Dec 2016, 06:02

VETS Canada aims to get homeless veterans off the streets

Organization started at the grassroots level when Jim Lowther bumped into a homeless vet while volunteering at church.

Veteran Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada is an organization started in 2010 that works with homeless veterans and those in need of emergency care, Toronto director Hilary Turner (right), Brigid Lynch (left) and Peter Elmenhoff pose for photos outside a Toronto shelter on Dec. 23.

Thu., Dec. 29, 2016

Jim Lowther still remembers sitting in his basement more than six years ago, wondering what he was going to do next with his life.

After 15 years of service in the Canadian Armed Forces, which included tours in Bosnia, Lowther was medically released in 2005. His time with the military left him grappling with post traumatic stress disorder. He spent much of his time not doing much at all.

His wife Debbie and those in his circle of support told him it was time do something. Several weeks in a row, Lowther drove by St. Andrew’s Church and contemplated going in to help out with Sunday supper. Eventually, on his seventh drive past the church, he went inside and began helping those in need.

It was there that Lowther bumped into another fellow veteran.

“He said he was homeless. And I was floored. It didn’t resonate with me. What do you mean? What are you talking about? How did this happen? What the hell?”

The man pointed to three other veterans at the supper, all of them struggling and without a place to live.

“I went home and told my wife, and neither of us could believe it. We looked it up, and saw search results from the U.S., but little information about Canada,” he said.

But as they soon found out, there were many homeless veterans in Canada. Lowther and Debbie conducted a boots-on-the-ground walk in Halifax and found several more veterans living on the streets. Then they heard from someone in Lethbridge, Alta., who was in need of assistance.

What began as a walk to seek out and help homeless veterans has now evolved into a national organization, with an army of nearly 500 volunteers that helps hundreds of homeless and in-crisis veterans each year.

Veterans Emergency Transition Services Canada (VETS Canada) has helped more than 1,400 veterans since it first began in 2010. Today, it serves 16 locations across the country.

In 2014, the VETS Canada was awarded a contract by Veterans Affairs Canada. The government funds three full-time staff members and an office in Halifax. Lowther says the government assistance means 100 per cent of all donations can go towards helping homeless veterans and those in crisis.

Tim Kerr, the director of Veterans Priority Program Secretariat with Veteran Affairs, said VETS Canada has helped identify homeless veterans that the department would likely not have been aware of had it not been for the organization.

“They have certainly expanded our knowledge of how many homeless veterans are out there,” Kerr said. “We still, as a department, have a long way to go in terms of knowing the entire situation, but VETS Canada has provided us with an opportunity to reach out and help more homeless veterans than we would have without them.”

Richard MacCallum, a veteran who spent 16 years as a reservist and member of the Armed Forces, was one of those people. He lost his business in the economic downturn, which cost him just about everything he had.

A year ago, he was working in Ottawa and staying at the Salvation Army shelter when he was approached by a VETS Canada volunteer who urged MacCallum to get in touch with the organization.

Not long after he emailed VETS Canada, MacCallum was taken out of the shelter and put in an extended-stay hotel, complete with a fridge full of groceries. He stayed there for three months while the organization helped him secure an apartment, and deal with medical issues. VETS Canada also provided proper winter gear, so he could stay warm while working construction.

“I can’t say enough about these people,” MacCallum said through tears. “The military looks out for their own. It’s a shame that it has to come this. I honestly don’t know where I would have ended up if it wasn’t for them.”

Now, MacCallum spends his limited free time volunteering for the group that helped him off his feet.

“No one deserves to live on the street,” MacCallum said. “It doesn’t matter if you’re military or not. If we can help, that’ll make a difference.”

Before receiving help from the government and the hundreds of eager volunteers, the Lowthers sunk nearly all of their savings into the cause.

“We had so many people that were suffering, so many families that were in need, we had to do it,” Lowther said. “I’ve spent money through my career on some crazy things, but this wasn’t it. This was something that needed to be done.”

The organization says most of the veterans they assist are men who live in cities. However, the number of female veterans in need of help has increased in the last year, from six per cent of all total cases in 2015 to 16 per cent this year.

There are also more older veterans looking for assistance. Last year, 10 per cent of veterans helped were 60 years old or more. This year, that figure jumped to 25 per cent. Many veterans are struggling because of extensive delays waiting to receive a pension from the backlogged Department of National Defence.

Hilary Turner, a former reservist and volunteer who runs the Toronto chapter of VETS Canada, has seen the organization help not only homeless veterans, but those in moments of need.

In one case, a female armed forces veteran was moving to northern Ontario for her studies when her car broke down. VETS Canada offered to subsidize her travel costs in order to get her.

The organization hasn’t just changed the lives of many veterans across the country. Lowther said it’s helped him find his own purpose.

“I have PTSD, a traumatic brain injury, herniated discs, I’m just as beat up as everybody. Until this, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life,” he said. “I was lost in limbo. And then this became my mission. It was like okay, here is your something. Go do that.”

Walter Semaniw, a retired lieutenant-general who helped get VETS Canada running in Ottawa, hopes Canadians become more aware of the help that some of their veterans need.

“Veterans have been there for the nation when the nation needed them,” Semaniw said. “Every Canadian goes through a tough time in their lives, and so do veterans. They were there for our nation, and our nation should be there for them.”


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Advocate hopes to help homeless female veterans struggling to 'get back on their feet'

Post by Guest on Sun 25 Dec 2016, 08:50

Advocate hopes to help homeless female veterans struggling to 'get back on their feet'

Canadian inspired by Final Salute, a U.S.-based organization that's helped thousands of homeless vets

By Stephen Puddicombe, CBC News Posted: Dec 25, 2016 6:00 AM AT Last Updated: Dec 25, 2016 9:07 AM AT

Jas Boothe, who served for 15 years in the U.S. military, started an organization to help other women after she and her children experienced homelessness.

A Canadian veterans' advocate is looking to the U.S. for advice on how to help female veterans living on the streets.

Jim Lowther, the founder of Dartmouth, N.S.-based Veteran Emergency Transition Services or VETS Canada, says more female former service members — many of them single mothers — are finding themselves on the streets, looking for help.

"We're seeing a lot of female vets with children, and it's growing. We have three this month alone," Lowther said.

It's hard to gather precise data on the homeless, but a 2015 report from Employment and Social Development Canada found there was an estimated 2,250 veterans using homeless shelters in Canada every year.

The vast majority of those people were men, though the study found female veterans of all ages using the shelter system. There was a "particularly high rate of episodic homelessness among female veterans," the report said.

Jim Lowther founded VETS Canada to help veterans struggling to reintegrate into society. He says he's seeing a growing number of female veterans in need of help.

"What's happening, we think, in some cases they are getting out of the military because of injury and they can't make it," Lowther said.

"You know, they just can't make it because they have kids and they can't get back on their feet."

Lowther has turned south of the border to Jaspen (Jas) Boothe for advice. He loves her way of thinking and her organization, Final Salute.

U.S. under fire

The U.S. armed forces have been under fire for several years for not doing more for female veterans in trouble.

Those who can't cope or can't get help spiral downward. Many end up losing everything, including their homes and families.

Boothe was one of those people. She served for 15 years in the U.S. military and was deployed during the Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom campaigns.

Jas Boothe's oldest son, far left, and husband also serve in the military.

In 2005, she was a single parent in the Army Reserve, living in New Orleans. Her life was dealt three crushing blows that year.

In August, her home and all her worldly possessions were lost to Hurricane Katrina. The very next month she received a devastating diagnosis of an aggressive head, neck and throat cancer.

The final shot came when the army downsized and she lost her job and landed on the streets with her son.

Next to no services

It didn't take long for Boothe to find out there were next to no services for women veterans who were on the streets. She felt there was little sympathy for them compared to their male counterparts.

"People will see a woman veteran with her kids — she immediately becomes a poor excuse for a mother. 'Why does she have children she can't take care of? She is a disgrace. She needs to lose her kids,'" Boothe said.

"They don't look at her as a soldier or service member who fell on hard times because she is a woman. Whatever she did, it is something she did to put her in that position."

C. Pena (centre) is one of the many veterans Boothe's organization has helped.

But Boothe decided this is no time for a pity party. She found a job with the reserves and a place to live with her son.

Next, she rounded up some volunteers and founded Final Salute.

The organization rented a large home in Virginia, which houses female homeless veterans for up to two years while they get back on their feet. Boothe said Final Salute does what the government can't — cut through the red tape and offer a helping hand without delay.

Final Salute has assisted more than 2,000 women veterans and children in over 30 U.S. states and territories.

Laconda Collins, one of those people, did two stints in the U.S. Army.

But a bad marriage and debts brought on by being a single mom with a disabled son forced her onto the streets and into a shelter she said was dirty and dangerous.

[b]['Almost like being deployed'/b]

Final Salute gave Collins another option that changed her life — the chance to live with a community of people going through the similar hardships.

"We are used to living in a shared community area, so it makes things a lot better," she said. "I like it. It's almost like being deployed again."

In Canada, Lowther is hoping to one day set up a similar operation with housing for homeless veterans. The problem of homeless veterans — of both genders — is growing, he said.


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Tuesday's letters

Post by Guest on Tue 13 Dec 2016, 12:45

Tuesday's letters:


Published on: December 13, 2016 | Last Updated: December 13, 2016 6:00 AM MST

Over 2,000 homeless veterans are living on the streets while we bring in thousands of Syrian refugees and provide them with all the necessities of life.

I don’t dispute the fact that some of these refugees were destitute, but I also know that many were hand-picked, highly educated, well-dressed and brought in loads of luggage – not those undernourished refugees dressed in rags we see on TV.

Canadian veterans went to war for our country and suffered unimaginable injuries – both mentally and physically and only get a hero’s welcome when they come home in a coffin.  Why are these poor, honourable men not given the same advantages – food, medical aid, dental aid, housing and money to live on instead of having to rely on handouts from the public?

Then we wonder why there’s prejudice and resentment towards the newcomers from a lot of Canadians.  Where’s the justice.

Leslie Webb, Grande Prairie


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Pension delays contribute to putting more veterans into financial crisis

Post by Guest on Sun 11 Dec 2016, 15:56

Pension delays contribute to putting more veterans into financial crisis

It is under-appreciated how many serving military live 'paycheque to paycheque,' says VETS Canada leader

By Murray Brewster, CBC News Posted: Dec 11, 2016 3:13 PM ET Last Updated: Dec 11, 2016 3:30 PM ET

'What a Christmas present!' says homeless veteran

The federal government's inability to get pension cheques into the hands of retiring soldiers in a timely manner is one of the factors contributing to a sharp increase in calls to an organization that deals with veterans in crisis, says a leading member of the group.

Walter Semianiw, a retired lieutenant-general and a driving force behind VETS Canada in Ottawa, says it is not widely appreciated that many military members, while still in uniform, live paycheque to paycheque.

They are not financially prepared to wait weeks — sometimes months — for their money when they retire from active service, he said in an interview with CBC News.

This year alone VETS Canada, which has a contract with the federal government for outreach to veterans and homeless veterans, has received 650 calls from ex-soldiers in crisis across Canada.

Fifty of them have come within the last month alone, said Semianiw, who also did a stint as a senior official at veterans affairs.

Claude Lord shows off a Canadian Veteran Forces cap recently in Montreal. Lord has been assisted by the federal government under a program aimed at getting ex-military personnel off the streets. He now gets a pension. Lord, a military vet, lives in a shipping container in a poor neighbourhood of Montreal.

"The question is: What is the issue? Why can't the government of Canada get cheques into people's hands — men and women in uniform — when they release (from the military)?" he said

"At the end of the day, in very simple terms: It is their money."

Homeless veteran leaves the shelter

The onset of winter has made the issue more pressing.

There was, however, one small victory for VETS Canada volunteers, many of them servicemen and RCMP officers, during an outreach walk on the streets of Ottawa.

Robert Praet, an older veteran, was living in an Ottawa shelter until Saturday when members of the organization, which has hundreds of volunteers and thousands of supporters across the country, contacted him.

Veterans' Affairs Minister Kent Hehr on homeless vets

Unable to afford housing in Alberta, Praet moved to the Ottawa area recently and found himself without a place to live.

"So many of the vets — particularly the younger ones, the newer ones — ones that need the help the medical help, both physically and mentally, they could use some support like this," he said.

"This is great to see and like I said, what a Christmas for me, what a Christmas present! I'm having a roof over my head."

But for groups like VETS Canada, it is urgent to deal with some of the root causes of homelessness, such as financial instability.

Pension processing delays

Last spring, the country's military ombudsman blasted the pension processing delays, saying both full-time and part-time members wait an unacceptable amount of time for their first payments.

Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan, at the time of the complaints, called the backlog "absolutely unacceptable" and pledged to do something about it, but warned a solution "won't happen overnight."

But successive federal governments have struggled with the same issue.

Retired lieutenant-general Walter Semianiw helped set up the Ottawa chapter of VETS Canada.

In 2011, the auditor general specifically examined the plight of reservists and a found significant backlog in the handling of retirement pensions for part-time soldiers — something the former Conservative government promised to fix.

"To my understanding, it is a capacity issue and they don't have enough people to deal with the backlog of claims at National Defence," Semianiw said.

It is unclear how much progress has been made since the spring on dealing with the stockpile of claims, but an increase in calls that cite the issue of delayed cheques is a matter of growing concern, he added.

How many vets are homeless?

There is not much in the way of data, in this country, about homelessness among veterans — the causes or the possible remedies.

A 2015 federal shelter study, released earlier this year, estimated about 2,250 veterans use shelters annually, but cautioned the actual number may be much higher.

The report by Employment and Social Development Canada was the first of its kind.

Point-in-time counts of homeless populations in cities across the country show veterans form between five and seven per cent of the homeless population, which would put their number as high as 11,000.

"There are still a lot there and we're finding a lot of them," said Jeff Murphy, the local chapter lead for VETS Canada.

Two homeless veterans were spotted in November, on top of six others identified in late September.

Waiting for action

That was just in the Ottawa area alone.

"A lot of them are nervous," Murphy said. "We come on to them very gently, for lack of a better word. We'll talk with them and ask those questions that only a military person would know. And as we break down that wall, they realize that there are brothers and sisters out there looking for them."

Minister of Veterans Affairs Kent Hehr speaks to stakeholders and veterans at a stakeholder summit at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa on Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015. A new study from the Government of Canada finds that at least 2,250 veterans are homeless.

A proposed federal strategy to deal with homelessness among veterans is under consideration and the minister responsible, Kent Hehr, has said he's committed to implementing it in a timely manner.

Last summer, a draft report recommended changing the vets benefits system to make it easier to hand out housing subsidies. Federal officials also seem keen to build affordable housing units dedicated to veterans.

It can't come fast enough for ex-military members who've spent time on the streets.

'Nobody...should be on the street'

Richard MacCallum, a former member of the navy who was homeless and now volunteers for VETS Canada, says many lose their homes and livelihoods through no fault of their own.

"I hate to see anybody who served this country the way I did, and the way these gentlemen did, on the street," he told CBC News in an interview.

Reaching out a finding one veteran at time has become a mission for MacCallum since he was helped out of a shelter.

But there is a still a lingering sense of frustration.

"It's not fair," said MacCallum, whose post-military career in business was cut short by the economic downturn.

"No veteran should be on the street. Actually no one — I'll change that. Nobody, be it veteran or civilian, should be on the street in Canada. There's no reason for it."


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Inside the Canadian government’s plans to help thousands of homeless veterans

Post by Guest on Tue 29 Nov 2016, 19:54

November 29, 2016

Inside the Canadian government’s plans to help thousands of homeless veterans

A 2015 study found nearly 2,250 veterans use emergency shelters on a regular basis

The federal government is preparing to offer rental subsidies to homeless veterans as part of a draft strategy called Coming Home.

The plan is meant to address the staggering reality that almost 2,250 veterans use emergency shelters on a regular basis, according to a 2015 study by Employment and Social Development Canada. That amounts to almost three percent of the total Canadian homeless population.

Of the veterans who become homeless in Canada, factors such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), other mental health issues, and substance abuse typically play a role. What’s more: research from the University of Western Ontario shows that veterans are most vulnerable to homelessness one decade after leaving the service.

To tackle the problem, Veteran Affairs Canada (VAC) is hiring 309 new permanent staff across Canada between now and 2020. This includes 167 case managers and 101 disability benefits staff. “Additional staff will mean that the needed case management services will be able to be provided to more veterans, including those who are homeless or in crisis,” Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence, told This in an email.

While details are scant on how VAC plans to tackle homelessness, we can look south of the border to a similar initiative that’s garnered some success.

In 2010, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs launched Opening Doors, a federal strategic plan to end veteran homelessness. Opening Doors boasts health, housing, and job support for veterans using the housing first model. The idea is that once veterans have stable, permanent housing, they are better equipped to deal with factors like unemployment, addiction, and mental health challenges. Many studies show that housing first programs drive significant reductions in the use of crisis services, and ultimately help people improve their health and social outcomes. The U.S. veteran homelessness rate has dropped 50 percent since Opening Doors launched.

Canada has even further to go to end veteran homelessness. On top of housing subsidies, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised almost $300 million for a new plan for veterans, and also promised to re-instate pension programs, which were replaced by a lump-sum payment in 2006. With a draft of Coming Home expected to be made public by the end of 2016, it remains to be seen how bold Canada will be in its plans to house veterans.


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About 35 veterans spend their nights in London’s streets and shelters, says MP Irene Mathyssen

Post by Guest on Sat 12 Nov 2016, 06:28

About 35 veterans spend their nights in London’s streets and shelters, says MP Irene Mathyssen

By Jennifer O'Brien, The London Free Press
Friday, November 11, 2016 8:35:13 EST PM

A group of veterans sing O' Canada during a Remembrance Day ceremony at the Cenotaph in Victoria Park in London, Ont. on Friday November 11, 2016.

Despite massive, beautiful ceremonies, and country-wide expressions of thanks to Canadian veterans every year, homelessness remains a tragic fact of life for many former soldiers.

An estimated 35 veterans spend their nights in shelters and on the streets of London alone, despite successes of a city housing program that has helped 10 formerly homeless vets secure housing, said London Fanshawe New Democrat MP Irene Mathyssen.

“It has to be rectified,” she said.

“That means there has been a real failure in terms of making sure these veterans and their families know what (support) is out there,” she said. “I’ve talked to so many veterans who have no idea what’s available to them and they are lost.”

In fact, early this year, a ­federal government report estimated at least 2,250 former soldiers across the country use shelters on a regular basis.

Soldiers who are being released on medical grounds, particularly for post-traumatic stress disorder, are among the most vulnerable, ­according to the report released to The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act last January.

An independent report prepared in 2015 for Veterans Affairs found “little evidence” the department is dealing adequately with the ­increasing number of soldiers ­being let go for medical reasons.

Bureaucrats often didn’t understand or co-ordinate with other departments to serve veterans, the report found.

Further, it said there was not enough field staff to meet the growing demand for services.

“They feel they don’t belong . . . Many of them are shattered human beings,” said Mathyssen.

For decades, she pointed out, the Royal Canadian Legion has helped to cover needs of veterans through its annual poppy sales for Remembrance Day, but the federal government owes it to its soldiers to increase their income and make sure they get mental-health help and support during and after their service.

“The Legion is a huge mover and shaker behind the issue of homelessness,” she said.

“The poppy fund has been picking up the slack for the government for years and years and years. This is exactly the time to remember all of our veterans and say we owe that honour to them.”

During the last three years, a city-based housing service London CAReS has helped 17 soldiers who were homeless or on the verge of homelessness through its veterans program.

Social workers with the program have been able to place eight veterans in housing and are close to helping two more in their own places now, said acting director Brian Lester.

“I think it’s a good news story. We are successfully helping ­people who have served this country,”

he said.

“There is still a need. Many are dealing with (post traumatic stress disorder) and that can contribute,” he said.

He said the clients include people who have served all over the world and have been “street residents” in London for the last few years.

The average time between discharge to when vulnerable vets become homeless is about 3½ years, he said.


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After military service, some Canadian veterans grapple with homelessness

Post by Guest on Fri 11 Nov 2016, 05:45

After military service, some Canadian veterans grapple with homelessness

Graham Slaughter,
Published Thursday, November 10, 2016 10:24PM EST
Last Updated Friday, November 11, 2016 12:43AM EST

The transition from the military to everyday life can be fraught, isolating and, in serious cases, leads some Canadian military veterans to life in homeless shelters.
As Canadians gather Friday to mark Remembrance Day, some advocacy groups are underlining the struggle that many veterans face simply keeping roofs over their heads and food on the table.
“Being prepared to enter into civilian life … they really don’t have any way of adjusting -- there’s no facilities to allow that,” Chris Munro, a Canadian Armed Forces veteran who works with homeless veterans through the Good Neighbours Club, told CTV News Channel on Thursday.

It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how many Canadian veterans are homeless. A federal report from March 2015 estimated that 2,250 former soldiers use shelters on a regular basis. That figure makes up for about 2.7 per cent of Canada’s total homeless population in temporary lodging.
The average age of homeless veterans is 52. In the general population, the average age drops to 37.
Researchers also found that ex-soldiers are more likely to experience episodic homelessness -- periods of instability that land them in shelters, rooming houses or the street multiple times in a year.
As a military veteran himself, Munro says he’s familiar with the unique struggle.
“I remember going through it myself. It was very, very difficult to transition,” he said.
The hardest part, Munro says, is “the isolation.”
“The military is a family. You have comrades, you speak a common language. And that language is not prevalent on the streets. And not prevalent in even the families. So you end up coming back to a different language, to a different culture, and it’s isolating. Very depressing.”

Without a support network, the sudden loneliness can lead some veterans into dark territory.
“This leads to marital breakdown, it leads to all manners of stigmatizing effects. And one of those is homelessness or at least couch surfing. They’ll stay with friends, they’ll stay with family. (It’s) very hard to institute a life of their own,” he said.
Munro says there’s also a major disparity between how veterans are treated in rural and urban environments, which may worsen the feeling of isolation.
“I think it’s different in the rural environment … because when I go up North, I see a lot of attention paid to vets. Here in the city, we’re so detached. We have armories within Toronto, but for the most part, there is no military presence,” he said.
At the Good Neighbours Club, homeless men over 50 are provided with nourishing meals, clothing, a place to do laundry and -- possibly most importantly -- companionship.
“Our members are 50 years of age or older, so by the time they’ve come to Good Neighbours, they’ve been through the cracks for a long period of time,” Munro said.


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Re: Veteran Homelessness / Topics & Posted Articles

Post by pinger on Thu 10 Nov 2016, 17:58

Homeless veterans face Remembrance Day on the street

When people gather for Remembrance Day ceremonies across Toronto on Friday, they will reflect on the sacrifice of the men and women who have risked their lives in the service of their country.
But for some Canadian Armed Forces veterans, life after that service has meant a new kind of struggle.
Veterans Affairs Canada estimates that there are more than 100 homeless veterans on the streets of the GTA.
Many of those veterans find their way to the Good Neighbours Club, a drop-in centre for men over 50, at the corner of Jarvis and Shuter streets.

​"There's no brothers-in-arms out here," says one club member, describing life on the streets once a military career has come to an end. "It seems everyone forgets who you are. They just don't care," he said.

"You try to become civilized, and everybody seems to not give you a fair shake."
The veteran, who did not want CBC Toronto to use his name, served seven years in the army, emerging in 1993 as a corporal with few skills that were of use in the civilian job market.

After  descending into a world of alcoholism, drug abuse and homelessness, he is now rebuilding his life with the help of staff and volunteers at the Good Neighbours Club, which was established in 1933 to help First World War veterans struggling through the Depression.

For more than 80 years, the downtown Good Neighbours Club has served Toronto's homeless vets and other older men who've fallen on hard times.
Now, the number of old soldiers at the club has started to dwindle, says former executive director Bruno Scorsone, as veterans of the Second World War and the Korean War die. But he says the club is bracing for a new wave of homeless veterans who've served in more recent conflicts, like Bosnia and Afghanistan.

The pressures of trying to find a job in a tight market, coupled with sometimes traumatic military experiences and a seemingly uncaring public can have devastating consequences, like depression and other mental illnesses, Scorsone says.

A meal and encouragement

The club provides a refuge from the streets, offering the men a meal for a dollar, showers, washers and dryers, counselling if they wish, job training, help finding housing,  companionship and encouragement.

But what Scorsone would really like to be able to offer them, he says, is a society that is more willing to offer the struggling vets a helping hand.

"Our society is so pacifistic, they don't appreciate what the military does for them, so they tend to not recognize their value," he says. "From having pride in their uniform, they have to contend with a society that doesn't want soldiers around."

And he says Veterans Affairs Canada does not have the resources to care for everyone who needs help.

"That has a depressing effect on anyone. They feel discarded and devalued."
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24-hour sleep out at National War Memorial in St. John's for homeless vets

Post by Guest on Wed 09 Nov 2016, 05:52

24-hour sleep out at National War Memorial in St. John's for homeless vets

Two veteran volunteers holding third 24-hour vigil

By Garrett Barry, CBC News Posted: Nov 08, 2016 9:08 PM NT Last Updated: Nov 08, 2016 9:08 PM NT

Mark Gauci with VETS Canada is spending 24 hours at the War Memorial in St. John's from Tuesday to Wednesday.

Two veteran volunteers will spend the night at the National War Memorial in St. John's in an attempt to raise awareness for homeless veterans in Canada.

The small group from Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada are holding the third 24-Hour Vigil for Veterans from 9 a.m. Tuesday to 9 a.m. Wednesday. The volunteers are pledging they'll sleep outside regardless of the weather.

"The vigil allows us to shed some light on what our homeless veterans go through on a daily/nightly basis," said Don Hookey, a veteran and a Newfoundland organizer with the charity, in a press release.

"The difference is that we get to go home when it's over; homeless veterans are unable to do that."

The charity says its goal is to raise awareness of the problems facing veterans in Canada, and help connect veterans to the services available to them. VETS Canada says it has helped 1,400 veterans since 2010.

Culture shock

Mark Gauci is the other volunteer pledging to spend the night at the National War Memorial.

Both he and Hookey served lengthy careers with the Canadian Forces, and both served in Afghanistan.

Gauci told CBC's Here and Now that the return to home for some soldiers can be like a "culture shock."

Mark Gauci and Don Hookey, seen here in 2014, staged a vigil for the first time two years ago.

"We spend our entire careers training together, working together, sometimes even living together. And it's hard to leave that brotherhood and sisterhood," he explained.

"Suddenly now you're in a different world, with different rules. It's a complete culture shock, and for some it's almost irreversible."

Gauci says the pair have been visited by a group of students from St. John's today, which was a "fantastic" learning opportunity.

With files from Jonathan Crowe


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Thousands of Canadian veterans will remain homeless

Post by Guest on Wed 09 Nov 2016, 05:11

Thousands of Canadian veterans will remain homeless

Postmedia Network
Tuesday, November 8, 2016 7:14:18 EST PM

This week we will mark Remembrance Day and honour those who have given their lives in the service of our country.

And this week, thousands of Canadian veterans will remain homeless, living on the streets or in shelters across our country.

We urge the government to do everything in its power to help these men and women, and to show with actions, rather than just words, that no Canadian soldier will be left behind.

A groundbreaking study at the start of this year found 2,250 veterans were homeless, a number largely believed to underestimate the true total, which some have pegged as high as 10,000.

Female veterans made up a disproportionate number of those suffering “episodic” homelessness.

The government’s strategy on housing the homeless vets is expected to include changing the benefit system to facilitate housing subsidies. We eagerly await strong action on this file.

As with all homelessness — and veterans make up only a small fraction of those living on the street — the causes are varied and not given to easy solutions.

PTSD and mental health issues cannot be ignored, nor can the challenges of acclimatizing to civilian life.

But this is a federal government that made every effort to expedite the immigration of 25,000 Syrian refugees.

We call on it to take that same gusto and apply it now to a dramatic and concentrated effort to address the homelessness issue affecting former military members.

Currently, groups such as VETS (Veterans Emergency Transition Services) Canada have taken to walking the streets and using military and Mountie volunteers to try to “rescue” homeless ex-soldiers. While their effort is laudable, the image is heartbreaking.

The federal Liberals came to power promising to improve the lot of veterans. After a year in power, too many of those promises remain unfulfilled.

Veterans advocate Sean Bruyea has argued the government has been unable to deliver on something so seemingly simple as providing picture ID to help ex-soldiers and their families access benefits.

It is too easy to forget this constituency of former soldiers, too easy to promise them the moon and then deliver only platitudes.

This week, with poppies on our coats, let’s honour not just our fallen soldiers, but those who need our help in the here and now.

They deserve that.

They have earned it.


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As Remembrance Day approaches, vets offer help to those with mental health issues

Post by Guest on Sun 06 Nov 2016, 18:57

As Remembrance Day approaches, vets offer help to those with mental health issues

CTV Montreal
Published Sunday, November 6, 2016 5:58PM EST
Last Updated Sunday, November 6, 2016 6:36PM EST

On the Sunday before Remembrance Day, ceremonies across the island of Montreal celebrated the contributions and sacrifices of Canada’s military veterans.
In Lachine, hundreds gathered to pay their respects. Among them was Christine Gauthier, a UN-NATO veteran who was a corporal in an artillery unit. At 46, she is considered to be a young veteran.
“I served 10 years in various artillery regiments,” she said. “I’ve been medically discharged since 1998.”

On the Sunday before Remembrance Day, veterans participated in a ceremony honouring the military in Lachine.

Gauthier was injured during a training session. The first years after getting out of the military were difficult. Now, she works with the group UN-NATO Veterans, helping those who came after her. She said that while the military does offer help for veterans with mental health issues, it’s only there if you ask for it.
“I didn’t for many years, which caused me to be for 10 years completely isolated and really suicidal and depressed in my house,” she said.
Among veterans at the Lachine ceremony, it’s a recurring problem. David Desjean, another UN-NATO vet who served two tours in Bosnia, has an experience similar to Gauthier’s after he left the military.
“It took me 13 years to figure it out,” he said. “That cost me a lot in time and health.”
He said his time in Bosnia left him with many traumatic memories.
“A lot of things happened, including having a grenade tossed on my lap in the vehicle,” he said. “Going through Sarajevo, sniper alley, so we’d get picked off. Lots of mines. Mines were a dime a dozen over there.”

Desjean said there are close to 200 veterans currently living homeless on Montreal’s streets. Gauthier said it’s UN-NATO Veterans’ mission to change that.
“We need to get these guys off the street and if they are seeing us around or reaching out to us, or if we are coming to them and reaching out to them, we are really there to make sure none of us fall under suicide or anything anymore,” she said. “Too many have died.”


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It was my honour to be able to address National Conference on Ending Homelessness this lunch hour, and speak to the noble effort to end homelessness in our nation.

Post by Guest on Sat 05 Nov 2016, 19:28

It was my honour to be able to address National Conference on Ending Homelessness this lunch hour, and speak to the noble effort to end homelessness in our nation.

Nov 03, 2016


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Volunteers search the streets for homeless veterans

Post by Guest on Sat 05 Nov 2016, 18:40

Volunteers search the streets for homeless veterans

Click on the link below to view video

CTV Ottawa
Published Saturday, November 5, 2016 4:05PM EDT
Last Updated Saturday, November 5, 2016 6:28PM EDT

Volunteers in Ottawa were out on the streets Saturday searching for homeless and at risk veterans.
Armed with backpacks full of winter supplies and toiletries, civilians and ex-military members joined forces to look for soldiers as part of the national non-profit with Veterans Emergency Transition Services or VETS Canada.
"We have helped 25 to 30 people this year alone," said Jeff Murphy, the head of the VETS Canada Ottawa chapter. "Right now the Ottawa chapter is very busy. We have 11 veterans we are currently supporting."
Formed in 2010, VETS Canada said it has helped more than 1,400 homeless and at risk veterans transition from military to civilian life. The volunteer-run organization acts as a sort of intermediary, helping veterans get back on track.
Once a veteran is identified, he or she is immediately put up into a hotel, then assigned a volunteer who helps the individual find a job, community service, a rental unit and or services available through other organizations like the local legion or Veterans Affairs.
"We are here to give them a hand up," said Jim Lowther, the CEO of VETS Canada. "We will help with rent, with a mortgage, grocery cards, gas cards, anything we can think of to help them get back on their feet."
It is unknown exactly how many homeless veterans are living in Canada, but a recent estimate from the federal government suggests there are at least 2,250 veterans who visit a shelter on a regular basis.
Fabian Novo joined the Ottawa chapter for the first time Saturday. Like many volunteers, Novo is ex-military, making the search personal.
"They are my brothers and they are my sisters," he said. "If there is anything or any way I can help, it's for them. They scarified a lot."
Novo's day was a success. He found and identified a 16-year Air Force veteran outside one of Ottawa's downtown shelters.
"We helped him. We took the initial report and vetted him to make sure he was military. And there is a process starting to help him get a new wheelchair."
Regardless of whether a veteran is found on the monthly walkabouts, volunteers said every chance to hit the streets is an opportunity to connect with the community and to shed light on an important issue.
"Some days we are busier than others," said Jennifer Gribbon, a volunteer with VETS Canada. "Even if we don't find any, we aren't discouraged; at least we are raising awareness."
VETS Canada does monthly walks in cities across Canada. On Saturday, walks took place in Ottawa, Gatineau, Calgary and Halifax.


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Organization Helping Vets in Need - Nov 05, 2016

Post by Guest on Sat 05 Nov 2016, 18:23

Organization Helping Vets in Need - Nov 05, 2016

CTV Atlantic


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Retired General Romeo Dallaire Addresses Veterans' Homelessness At London Conference

Post by Guest on Sat 05 Nov 2016, 11:13

November 04, 2016 05:55 pm

An internationally-renowned war hero was among the 1,000 attendees at a London conference aimed to end homelessness this week.

Retired senator and Canadian Armed Forces lieutenant-general Romeo Dallaire was the keynote speaker at the Friday session for the National Conference on Ending Homelessness, held at the London Convention Centre, bringing a message of “solidarity” towards the broader cause of homelessness, as well as a call to action.

“When you’ve got veterans who served and who are hurting, and are left out there in the cold, that only makes them much more vulnerable and difficult to handle,” he said during an exclusive interview with AM980’s Andrew Lawton. “I was speaking (the conference) bringing a solidarity with their work with the general population, and a recognition that veterans are caught up in that too.”

Dallaire, 70, is most known for his work in bringing the Rwandan Genocide to the international forefront in 1994, but has also become an advocate on veterans issues, given his own struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite being more than 20 years removed from the conflict,

Dallaire still deals with symptoms of PTSD, a reality he knows is true of other veterans as well.

Without a roof over one’s head, he said, addressing other issues is next to impossible.

“The fact that there’s still veterans in the street to me (says) something has disconnected,” Dallaire said. “We recognize that when a veteran who was injured has a home or a place that he can call home, where he feels safe or she feels safe, it helps immensely in the rehabilitation and reintegration to society. When they end up in the street, they’ll end up in jail and then the situation even gets worse. Why is that still in existence?”

He acknowledged that some people who qualify as homeless aren’t seeking help, making it all the more important to reach them.

The National Conference on Ending Homelessness also featured Olympic athlete Clara Hughes, spokesperson of the #BellLetsTalk campaign, alongside other speakers connected to the cause.

Dallaire is an officer of the Order of Canada, and served as a senator representing Quebec from 2005 until retiring in 2014.

Click on the link below to listen to the interview between Andrew Lawton and Romeo Dallaire on Homelessness.


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Re: Veteran Homelessness / Topics & Posted Articles

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