Veteran Homelessness / Topics & Posted Articles

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Re: Veteran Homelessness / Topics & Posted Articles

Post by Guest on Sat 12 Mar 2016, 14:43

Boots on the Ground’ searches for homeless veterans in Edmonton

Vets Canada volunteers are planning to blitz downtown Edmonton Saturday, searching for former soldiers and police officers now living rough on the streets or staying in homeless shelters.

“We can take them off the streets today,” said Julie Bibby, helping to organize the first large-scale Boots on the Ground walk to find homeless veterans in Edmonton.

“No Canadian should be homeless but especially not those who served our country,” said Bibby, Vets Canada National Director of Operations. She’s expecting about 20 volunteers to help check downtown homeless shelters, drop-in centres and other places people without their own homes tend to gather.

If they find a veteran, they’ll start a conversation and see if they want help getting into secure housing again. The group is funded through donations and contracts with Veterans Canada. They can put a veteran up in a hotel, then help them find an apartment and together secure a deposit and rent, said Bibby.

“There are numerous veterans and they’re not necessarily using the shelters. They’re couch surfing or living rough on the street or in the river valley,” said Bibby. Edmonton has had a group of local volunteers since 2013. Many of them are active police officers and paramedics. They hold smaller walks looking for veterans in hard to reach places.

Bibby said the average age of veterans they work with is 45. They end up on the street after marriages fail, they end up with post traumatic stress disorder, other mental health illnesses or addictions. Vets Canada has been helping homeless veterans find permanent housing and other support since 2010 and now help an average 50 veterans a month, often through referrals. Recent walks through Halifax and Ottawa found three and four veterans each.

The group is meeting at Sutton Place at noon and will be searching for veterans most of the afternoon.


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Rude Awakening

Post by RCN-Retired on Sat 19 Mar 2016, 05:23

I must say I just finished one of the best reads ever and one that has opened my eyes on who it actually is that are the enemy of veterans. Sure the elected politicians have to take their licks for not having any ethics or morals but the real enemy is the senior bureaucrats, Deputy Minisiters, etc that are all about themselves looking good rather then assure those who need their help the most are looked after. As a retired CPO1 I do not have much use for our militaries most senior officers (and a few junior ones ha ha) but I stand here and salute Colonel (Retired) Pat Stogran. I only wish I could have served under his command, he most certainly without question is a leader of men and women. In his book he talks of his plight while serving as our ombudsman and is not shy about calling out some of the bureaucrats by name as well as the corrupt politicians that did all they could to discredit him and the veteran community. He answered an important question that I have had since the naming of his replacement to why we no longer hear of the fights that the OVO is doing on our behalf. He indicates in his book that the current ombudsman worked for him in the department and he was in the process of firing him when he himself was fired and presto they name the guy that could not do the job as a Director to become the new ombudsman. Not sure what is up with that but let's say I have my suspicions. Saw to many that once reached the top forget who got them there. It is very clear that Harper and his band of henchmen were crooks and enemy of the veterans but it is to early to tell if Trudeau has the right stuff to fire a few top bureaucrats that do not follow his mandate, that is of course if he does not forget who were instrumental in getting him and the Liberal Party of Canada elected. Anyway all a great read if you have not read it you can get it for $4.95 on kobo.

Last edited by RCN-Retired on Sat 19 Mar 2016, 05:26; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : Typo)
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Re: Veteran Homelessness / Topics & Posted Articles

Post by 1993firebird on Sat 19 Mar 2016, 08:20

I fought my battle myself , it almost killed me and my family , but I did it myself. No politicians , no MD's , no Mental Health Doctors , no Lawyers , no one but me because it is all bureaucracy. I told everyone what my problems are and told them to report it on a medical document and if they did not I went to another Doctor until it was documented. I never gave up and I think that we as Veterans should band together and take care of the homeless situation ourselves because the Government is a waste of time. I have voted once in my life when I was 18 years old , I have not voted in 28 years because the Government does what they are told to do not what they tell people they are going to do if voted in. BAND OF BROTHERS AND SISTERS , lets take action and find the homeless Veterans ourselves and bring them HOME.

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Homeless veterans: helping those who have fallen behind

Post by Guest on Wed 20 Apr 2016, 16:58

An emergency fund specifically for Canadian veterans in crisis has been depleted, Veterans Affairs confirmed Wednesday. Money, composed of donations from the public and held in trust by Veterans Affairs, was used to help those experiencing homelessness or distress.

In the fiscal year 2014-2015 approximately $200,000 was held in the account and this interruption could affect the help some homeless veterans will receive, putting more pressure on shelters and other emergency services.

Homelessness among veterans to be a top priority for Liberals: Hehr

“No homeless veteran will be turned away from Veterans Affairs,” a statement received by 16×9 reads, saying they will work with veterans to make sure their needs are met through other services and partnerships.

The struggles of homeless veterans started gaining attention over the last decade, as shelters, police agencies and academics started recognizing the unique population. Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) completed a report in 2015 estimating 2,250 veterans use homeless shelters every year. That number accounts for 2.7 per cent of annual shelter users.

16×9 has been investigating homeless veterans and wanted to know how that number compared to point-in-time counts in cities across Canada. Point-in-time counts measure the number of homeless people on a specific day.

The numbers we found were higher, ranging from 4.7 per cent to 18.3 per cent.

16×9 also met with many who live at The Madison, a home for homeless veterans in Calgary.

“For me, this place here, I feel like a millionaire,” said Gerald Zaleschuk, 71. Zaleschuk signed up for the Canadian Armed Forces in the 1960s as a teenager. He says he served 10 years.

“It made a better person out of you,” he said, describing himself as a “bad kid.”

After he got out of the military, he struggled with addiction, served time in prison, his marriage fell apart and he eventually ended up homeless. He says he lived on the street for almost 20 years, often camping in parks or sleeping on benches.

“It’s like you have a crisis in slow motion,” explains Cheryl Forchuk, assistant director at the Lawson Health Research Institute in London, ON.
She conducted some of the first research on homeless veterans in Canada.

“It’s a good decade often between the time they leave the service and the time they end up homeless.”

Forchuk says homelessness among veterans has many layers. Many like to avoid shelters, living off the radar and use their survival skills to camp in parks or ravines.

Is Ottawa underestimating the number of homeless vets?

Unlike some other homeless populations, there is not one event or crisis that propels a veteran into homelessness. She says it is often addiction or substance abuse that started in the military, coupled with depression or anxiety and challenges transitioning to civilian life that could contribute to the fall.

The Madison, open since 2012, operates on a “housing first” and “harm reduction” model. The primary purpose is to get veterans off the street, into safe and affordable housing. Residents are not required to attend counselling or addiction programs, though many do.

Fifteen vets live at The Madison, ranging in age from their 40s to their 70s. The only requirement is military service, with many of the men having served between the 1960s and the 1990s. Some were deployed overseas, others weren’t.

“These people want to congregate, they want to reconnect with their military culture. And they can’t do that in a homeless shelter,” says Forchuk.

Forchuk says military service does not cause homelessness, in fact time in the armed forces provides much needed structure and routine to some people. But once they leave and enter civilian life, that lack of structure and routine can cause many veterans to stumble.

“Just because you’re well thought of in the military, it doesn’t mean you’re employable on the outside,” says Peter Polley, another resident of the Madison. Polley served in the navy for 12 years, from 1968-1980.
Polley says problems need to be caught before they become unmanageable and more outreach is needed.

“Because, you’re fighting addiction. You’re fighting homelessness. Your health is down. All of these should be addressed before they become like I was,” Polley said.

Veterans like Zaleschuk and Polley look back on their time in the military with pride: a time when they were respected.

Veterans are also connected with Veterans Affairs case workers who can assist them in getting access to any benefits they may be entitled to. But in the case of many veterans, there are caveats and limitations to what they are eligible for, such as an injury linked to service or those who served in combat only. Homelessness is not considered an injury.

“We want to take a broad approach to this,” says Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr. “I think our department has the capacity to do better”.

“This is something that is not only shocking to the Canadians it is concerning for me as minister. And I will say this, Veterans Affairs has never had it in its mandate to address homelessness,” Hehr said.

While Veterans Affairs do offer some benefits, charities and non-profit organizations, like local chapters of the Royal Canadian Legion, VETS Canada and the Poppy Fund, have stepped in to fill the gaps, providing supports, services and even assistance in locating homeless veterans.

The Madison is operated by Alpha House, in large part with provincial funding. Forchuk’s research also shows that places like the Madison save money.

According to Forchuk’s research, it costs almost $2,000 to operate a shelter bed each month. Veterans cost the system over $88,000 in costs associated with accessing shelters and over $500,000 can be saved by intervening in homelessness.

Veterans Affairs has called homeless veterans are a priority and announced a secretariat to investigate the issue. Minister Hehr hopes to present a framework addressing it within the next four months.

“They need more of these places,” says Zaleschuk, whose health is deteriorating. “If they didn’t get me into this place, then – I wouldn’t be alive today. I know that for a fact.”


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Leave None Behind

Post by Dannypaj on Fri 22 Apr 2016, 05:35

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Fighting for the security of veterans

Post by Guest on Thu 26 May 2016, 13:07

Blues for Soldiers supports VETS Canada’s outreach to homeless

When Jim Lowther was released from the Canadian Armed Forces in 2010 after 15 years of service, he was struggling.

A veteran who served on operational tours in Bosnia and Afghanistan, Lowther became a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Upon returning home to Halifax, Jim and his wife Debbie looked to acclimate back to normal life.

“(He) was struggling to find out what his next purpose in life was going to be,” said Debbie Lowther in an interview with Brant News. “I, more or less, pushed him out of the house and said to maybe go volunteer in the community, which was something he had always enjoyed.”

Canadian military members fight for the rights, freedoms and security of Canadians. They are assumed to have nerves of steel, but what happens when they are the ones who need help? Who can they turn to for security?

“(Jim) went to a Sunday supper at a church in Halifax,” Debbie said. “And he ran into a gentleman that he had served with in the military. Naturally he assumed that that gentleman was there volunteering as well.

"He wasn’t. He was there getting a meal.”

A study by Employment and Social Development Canada in March of 2015 estimated that 2,250 former soldiers use shelters on a regular basis, about 2.7 per cent of the total homeless population that uses temporary lodging.

“The gentleman, as it turns out, was couch surfing and he proceeded to point out a couple of other veterans in the room,” Debbie said. "We were rather shocked at that, and it’s one of those things that once you see it you cannot un-see it.”

Prior to the 2015 study, there was no concrete data. But that number is only based on a database of 60 shelters.

“We feel that number is very low,” Debbie said. “It doesn’t take into consideration those shelters that don’t use that database and it doesn’t take into consideration that population that we call the hidden homeless – those who are couch surfing, who are living in their cars, living rough in the bush. Our men and women who served have such great survival skills and so they don’t tend to use the shelter system.”

After discovering that there were veterans in Halifax living homeless and having lost their path, Debbie and Jim didn’t look the other way. Instead, the pair founded an organization called Veteran Emergency Transition Services – or VETS Canada.

“We started off really grassroots in Halifax, put together a couple of people and did it kind of the military way, boots on the ground,” Debbie said. "Before we knew it, it had spread right across the country.”

Today VETS Canada has teams in every major urban center across the country.

“We identified a problem and people have jumped on board and said I want to help how can I help and that’s how our volunteer base has grown,” she said. "I think Canada really does support the troops and they have really stepped forward and tried to reach out and help.”

In 2014, VETS Canada was awarded a contract with Veteran’s Affairs Canada as a service provider in the field of homeless and in crisis veteran outreach.

In terms of progress in the government, Debbie says steps are being made but there is still more that needs to be done.

“We just kind of put our heads down and do what we have to do, we don’t point a finger at the government, because from our standpoint we can see the steps the government is making to help with this issue,” she said. "We just continue doing the work that needs to be done.”

Three years ago, the Brant Artillery Gunners Club approached Debbie and Jim and made an offer: Would they like to be the recipients of funds generated by a small, one-day blues music festival?

This year, the third annual Blues for Soldiers to benefit VETS Canada to help homeless and in-crisis veterans suffering from PTSD will take place Saturday, July 9.

The event, taking place at the Gunners Club, located at 115 Henry St. from 1 p.m. to 11 p.m., will feature performances by Jack De Keyzer, Jerome Godboo, Brant Parker Band and Smoke Wagon Blues Band, as well as feature a motorcycle show and shine presented by Hip’s Cycle.

Limited seating will be available, so organizers suggest to bring a lawnchair. A parking lot shuttle will also be available.

The event will be catered by Strode’s BBQ and Deli.

Admission cost is 10$ and tickets available at the Gunners Club and Hip’s Cycle at 900 Colborne St.

Representatives from VETS Canada will be on site to provide information on what the organization does so people can see first-hand how the proceeds will be spent.

“One of the things we do that sets us apart as an organization,” Debbie said, “is that we do physically go out into the streets looking for those veterans that do need our assistance. We just couldn’t go on with our normal day-to-day lives knowing that there were others out there who had served their country, who had fallen through the cracks.”

As Part of the 2016 Coast to Coast Tour of Duty, VETS Canada will be in 13 cities across the country on June 11 for Boots on the Ground solidarity walks. To get information on the Toronto walk, follow VETS Canada on Facebook or go to


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Veteran Homelessness in Canada

Post by Guest on Sun 29 May 2016, 11:28

One homeless Veteran is one too many
That is why Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) is taking steps to reach out to Veterans who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Local organizations are usually the first resource for anyone who is homeless. Through these organizations, VAC is able to provide information about the Department’s services.

Call the VAC Assistance Service if you need to talk to someone right now.

You can reach a mental health professional at any time—24 hours a day, 365 days a year—by calling 1-800-268-7708

OR Contact VAC 1-866-522-2122


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Teens raise funds to help 'Leave the Streets Behind'

Post by Guest on Tue 07 Jun 2016, 05:44

Recently teens raised funds through games to contribute to veterans program.

Who would figure a group of teens playing various board and outdoor games could help others.

Recently area teens did just that by raising funds contributing to the 'Leave the Streets Behind' program.

St. Joseph Island teen, Kyle Gauthier, along with members of the Teen Night team of coordinators Letitia Bishop and Mary-Ann Boyle, presented a cheque for $500 to Comrade Hugh Hamilton of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 374.

The Second Annual Game-A-Thon was held May 28, whereby teens collected pledges from the community to raise the funds.

In 2012, the Legion established a national homeless veterans program called 'Leave the Streets Behind', based on the groundbreaking work of Ontario Command.

The program’s mission is to reach out to homeless Veterans, or near homeless Veterans, by providing immediate financial assistance and support when and where needed.

It also connects them with the appropriate social and community services to establish a long term solution to meet their needs.

To date, the Leave the Streets Behind program is operated in Ontario, British Columbia/Yukon, Alberta/North West Territories, Nova Scotia/Nunavut Commands,

Teen game night began in November 2015 and sponsored by the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 374 Ladies Axillary and supported by the Richards Landing Branch.

The purpose was to offer, at no cost, an activity for the youth to come out and play traditional board games. No electronics permitted.

As many as 40 youth have joined, meeting Saturday evenings at the Legion lounge. Attendance varies from four to 15 per night.


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VETS Canada volunteers searching Edmonton streets for homeless vets

Post by Guest on Sat 11 Jun 2016, 13:13

VETS Canada volunteers searching Edmonton streets for homeless vets.

Volunteers are taking to the streets Saturday afternoon in an attempt to locate and help homeless vets.

Doug Beaton is a volunteer with Veterans Emergency Transition Service (VETS) Canada and says they typically find about five vets on these walks, but they know there are more out there.

“A lot of them are couch surfing, some might be living in their cars or living in the bush,” he says. “Military people have the skill sets to be able to live in the bush and stay to themselves.”

The group did another walk in Edmonton in March where they located 12 to 15 vets, but a veteran in the area, who is not homeless, told VETS Canada volunteers there are as many as 30 living on the streets.

“A lot of them may be suffering from PTSD, anxiety, or other illnesses or they could have substance abuse problems, Beaton said. “Sometimes the substance abuse problems happen when you’re trying to transition [back to civilian life] unfortunately. It’s sad, but that’s just the way it is.”

Anyone can come help Saturday afternoon. The group is meeting at 1:00 at the Mustard Seed Church. This walk coincides with walks in 13 other cities across the country.

Group looks to help former soldiers living on Fredericton streets.

VETS Canada organized walks in 13 cities across Canada to bring attention to homeless veterans.

A group of veterans walked through downtown Fredericton on Saturday in search of veterans who are living on the streets.

"These are brothers in arms," said Hank Merchant, who served in the military during the 1960s and 1970s.

"These people served as I did and when somebody asks for help, as a brother, you reach out to help them."

Merchant said he has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which prompted him to get involved in the walk.

'Pride gets in the way'

He was one of about 20 people, including out-reach workers and local Members of Parliament, who walked along King Street and Queen Street during the event.

VETS Canada organized walks in 13 cities across the country to bring attention to veterans facing homelessness and other challenges, such as PTSD.

The non-profit charity has a contract with the federal government to provide services for vets living on the streets and in crisis.

The group helps veterans with everything from paying rent to dealing with a mental health crisis, according to J.J. Chiasson, a volunteer with the New Brunswick chapter of VETS Canada and a member of the military.

"It's kind of hard to fathom that there are those that are homeless and sometimes pride gets in the way and they don't seek help," he said. "Sometimes they just need a little hand up and they're fine."

Reaching out to find former soldiers

The group holds monthly walks to speak with people on the streets.

A March 2015 study by Employment and Social Development Canada, obtained by The Canadian Press earlier this year, estimates that 2,250 former soldiers use shelters on regular basis, about 2.7 per cent of the total homeless population that uses temporary lodging.

Chiasson said the group doesn't usually find veterans who are homeless immediately on the walks, as was the case on Saturday.

But the group did come across other people living on the streets who were able to alert them to vets in need of help.

'Boots on the ground' charity walk for military veterans.

New force hits Winnipeg streets to find homeless veterans.

A group of volunteers with Veterans Emergency Transition Services Canada went door-to-door visiting Winnipeg shelters to find and meet homeless veterans for the first time.
The volunteers tried to connect with veterans who may have slipped through the cracks and raise awareness.
Winnipeg was one of 13 cities participating in a national search for veterans living in homelessness. VETS Canada says if you know a veteran in crisis, or living in poverty, the group wants to know about it.

Homelessness is way of life for veteran Allan Rogan, 65. He signed up for the Canadian armed forces at 15 years of age. Rogan served four years with the Royal Canadian Artillery in Niagara Falls.
He is proud of the time he served, and happy he met with VETS Canada volunteers. Rogan tried to get an apartment for two years, and the past couple weeks he called Siloam Mission home.
"Not everybody is there by choice, okay, they are there by circumstance," said Rogan outside the shelter.
VETS Canada believes there are about 2500 homeless veterans in Canada.
"I get sick to my stomach. It bothers me. If you served your country, you shouldn't be living on the street,” said volunteer Mark Vandersteen
Not every veteran wants help though. One veteran took a pamphlet on resources available to him, but volunteers don't know if he'll reach out in the future.
"It’s pretty heartbreaking. It's difficult to deal with because you want to help them and again they are not being receptive to the difficult situation they are in," said volunteer Major Mathiu Kuhn, who is an active member with the Royal Canadian Armed Forces from outside of Lighthouse Mission on Main Street.
People who would like to report a veteran in need of support can visit VETS Canada’s website or call 1 888-228-3871.


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Alberta advocates search for homeless veterans, call for action

Post by Guest on Sun 12 Jun 2016, 06:20

Alberta advocates search for homeless veterans, call for action.

Search for homeless veterans and food bank drive has advocates calling for help from federal government.

A group that works to support Canadian veterans hit the streets in cities across the country Saturday, to look for homeless veterans, including in Calgary and Edmonton.

But some say the federal Liberals made promises about veterans while campaigning, that have yet to materialize.

Steve Gilliss, with the Calgary chapter of VETS Canada, says he had hoped to see more support from the Liberals eight months after the election.

The Liberals promised to restore lifelong pensions to injured veterans, but didn't include that in the March budget.

Gilliss says he reached out to Veteran Affairs Minister Kent Hehr's office about attending this weekend's homelessness event, but never heard back.

"You hear that from the vets themselves saying, 'Where is our support?' " Gilliss said.

"You know with this government change, what's happened in the past six months, eight months. Why haven't we seen you follow through on the promises you made on your campaign?"

Some say Alberta veterans have recently been struggling even more, not only for housing, but also for food.

Navy vet Jim Welsh says that's, in part, because donations have recently gone north.

Welsh held an impromptu food drive in Calgary to gather items for the veterans food bank.

The "Stuff this Truck" event is normally held in the week leading up to Remembrance Day.

"With the evacuation of Fort Mac, all the food banks in Calgary pulled together and sent a bunch of product north," Welsh said.

"Two weeks ago I went into the veterans food bank on other business and I walked in the door and the shelves were empty, I mean empty."

In Edmonton, a veterans advocate says it's important to get politicians involved.

Darrell Beaton led a team of volunteers looking for homeless veterans.

"They're the ones that stood up for us," Beaton said. "So we're out here looking for our brothers to give them a hand up."

Beaton, an army retiree, invited local politicians such as MP Randy Boissonnault to join the walk.

"It affects how we look at things through a policy lens," Boissonnault said about meeting veterans in his community.

Boissonnault represents Edmonton Centre where many of the city's homeless shelters are. He described the walk as eye-opening.

Anytime VETS Canada connects with a homeless veteran, its members help that individual find the resources they need to stand on their own again.

Stephen Gallard said he still feels a sense of kinship to others in the military, even though he retired years ago.

He joined VETS Canada to extend that same support to homeless veterans.

"When you're ex-military or retired … and you're on the street with addiction issues or with mental health issues, you won't go up to garrison because it's too embarrassing," Gallard explained.

"People might see you and know you. So this really appealed to me because we meet them where they are," he said.

The federal government estimates there are at least 2,250 homeless veterans in Canada.


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Veterans fighting for survival walk on P.E.I.

Post by Guest on Mon 13 Jun 2016, 10:02

Veterans fighting for survival walk on P.E.I.

Event raising awareness held all across Canada points to disturbing trend of homeless veterans.
A growing number of Canadian veterans have found themselves fighting to survive in their own country.

The disturbing trend of veterans becoming homeless or at-risk also reaches further than many Canadians would like to think, said Eric Payne of Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada this weekend.

“Even here on P.E.I., we’ve helped eight people within the last year-and-a-half that were either at risk or homeless,” Payne said during a rally and walk focusing on the issue this weekend. “With the economic climate we’ve got and the challenges with their pensions being put out… there are delays and waiting periods that can get exceeded, then you’re in a position where you need help.

“We’re here to help”

Payne, the vice president of VETS Canada, led a group of about 25 Islanders in Charlottetown during the first Coast to Coast Tour of Duty; a national walk to raise awareness over the issue of homelessness among veterans.

The goal was to create a visual reminder to residents about the issue while also searching for veterans in crisis.

Jim Lowther, co-founder, CEO and president of VETS Canada, said the walk was in response to a government study released by Employment and Social Development Canada last March.

The study estimated that about 2,250 Canadian veterans used homeless shelters on a regular basis.

“One veteran living on the streets in simply one too many,” said Lowther. “Those who have protected our homes should never be without one. This tour is to encourage dialogue at both the community and national level, and to locate these veterans who need our help. Now is the time to take action.”

Walks were also held in at least 12 other cities, including Toronto, Ottawa, Calgary, Montreal, Winnipeg, Edmonton and Vancouver.

The Charlottetown walk also saw the group visit some of the services and resources for at-risk individuals.

That included stops at Anderson House, The Salvation Army, Bedford MacDonald House and the Upper Room Soup Kitchen.

“We’re trying to raise awareness in the community about the services provided and some of the resources we may use while we assist veterans who are at-risk or homeless back into a stable environment,” said Payne. “This is also about being aware of who else is out there and if someone needs help then we’re here for them.”

VETS Canada is a national charity and service provider with Veterans Affairs Canada that has assisted hundreds of veterans since 2010.

Payne said those who missed the walk but wish to donate to the cause, or know someone in need, can visit:


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Halifax Heroes: Army of volunteers provide 'ground support' to homeless and at-risk veterans

Post by Guest on Mon 18 Jul 2016, 06:12

Halifax Heroes: Army of volunteers provide 'ground support' to homeless and at-risk veterans.

Since 2010, VETS Canada has helped close to 1,200 still serving military or retired military members and their families to reintegrate into civilian life.

Sun Jul 17 2016

“He once fought for our country. Now he fights just to survive.”
“She battled the face of terrorism. Now she faces a battle with depression.”
Those powerful messages featured on a VETS (Veterans Emergency Transition Services) Canada brochure are intended to create awareness about an organization committed to helping homeless and at-risk veterans reintegrate into civilian life.
Dartmouth residents Jim and Debbie Lowther founded VETS Canada in 2010 after Jim came across four homeless veterans at a Sunday supper where he was working as a volunteer.
A retired military member himself, he and his wife started a Facebook page in 2010 devoted to the cause of helping such men and women.
They had no idea what they’d sparked what would become a nationwide movement.
Since 2010, VETS Canada has helped close to 1,200 still serving military or retired military members and their dependents above the age of 18, in addition to serving or retired RCMP members.
When national executive director for VETS Canada Gail Gardiner contacted Metro, she asked if they could honour their volunteers by asking two to speak on behalf of them all.

Shawn Hambley and Anthony Banfield, both currently serving with the Royal Canadian Navy, agreed to sit down and share what volunteering with VETS Canada has meant to them.
“I found out about VETS Canada because when I was working at Juno Towers I actually ran into a vet who was having issues who was staying there,” Banfield recalled.

“Me and my PO were working closely with him and we actually didn’t know what to do with him until one of our supply officers told us about VETS Canada. So once I found out what VETS Canada can do for a retired member like that who is in need, it really opened up my eyes and that’s when I started volunteering.”
Banfield said that retired naval chief had been in and out of shelters and was living on the streets. He described VETS Canada’s intervention as “life changing” for the man, who was suffering with several medical issues including dementia. He has since been reunited with his family in another province and is living there, off the streets.
“VETS Canada stepped in and changed this man’s life…You never know what situation you could be in in years to come, and it’s just nice to know that someone will be out there that can help me,” he said.
Hambley said he started volunteering with the organization as a way to give back because in addition to being a serving member, he grew up in a military family. He said the organization is hands-on and he appreciates the immediacy of seeing the difference he and the other volunteers make.
“The stories that really stick out for me are when we will get a referral in through the website. It could be single parent, someone who was in the military, now living with two or three kids under their roof and they can’t pay their power bill and have been told their power is going to be shut off immediately,” he said.
“That’s when we can step in, try to assist them, see the situation and get in there and keep the lights on for that family. It’s food, shelter, heat. It’s giving them the basic necessities.”

VETS Canada organizes fairly regular ‘Boots on the Ground’ events where volunteers walk the streets connecting with people and seeking veterans in need of “ground support.” The last one in May took place in 13 Canadian cities including Halifax, where about 25 volunteers showed up.
“Being able to get the exposure nationally and see the numbers of people being helped not just in Halifax but all across the country really opened my eyes as to how widespread the issue is,” said Hambley.
“Right now the biggest concern that I am seeing is the delay in people receiving their pensions when they’re released. That’s a big concern right now. People don’t have months and months of funds set up upon retirement and they end up waiting a long time to get their pensions.”
VETS Canada co-founder Debbie Lowther said there are about 15 to 20 active volunteers in Halifax alone but as a non-profit they’re always looking for more. Anyone wishing to help the cause can sign up to volunteer or donate through their website.
“We have a contract with Veterans Affairs but it’s a small contract and does not make ends meet. The more people that know who we are, the more we get asked for help. They keep coming and coming,” Lowther said.
“We could not do this without volunteers. They are essential. It’s hard work and it’s not easy, particularly when you have a couple cases back to back that are difficult.”
For volunteers like Banfield, being part of an organization like VETS Canada is meaningful because it is changing lives.
“There are still lots of vets on the streets but if VETS Canada wasn’t around, more would be homeless,” he said.

“They’re trying to find these homeless vets and put them up and getting them the help they need. And they’re succeeding.”


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Peel police employees in Brampton support local veterans

Post by Guest on Thu 21 Jul 2016, 14:39

Peel police employees in Brampton support local veterans.

July 21, 2016

Peel Regional Police employees at Brampton’s 22 Division are helping Canadian veterans by donating food, gift cards and other necessities for Operation: Leave the Streets Behind.

The first donations of non-perishable food were delivered to Branch 15 on Elizabeth Street Tuesday, to be distributed as needed, according to police civilian employee Jennifer Zahodrik. She has spearheaded the workplace campaign.

The four banker boxes of food were filled in a month, and more donations will be collected from now through to the end of the year, according to Zahodrik.

Leave the Streets Behind has a goal of ensuring that every homeless or near-homeless veteran gets the help they need to leave the street and secure housing.

Joe Sweeney, a Korean War veteran, started it in Toronto seven years ago.

Ontario Command Legion Branches created a Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund, and Ladies Auxiliary units used the money to assemble “comfort baskets” with shampoo, shaving cream, hats, mitts, socks and other personal items. The assistance fund has also helped house veterans by assisting with first/last month’s rent, furniture and food vouchers, rental help for some facing eviction, and medical help has been provided, including dental, transportation, stress therapy, and glasses.

Zahodrik said the 22 Division campaign will collect gift cards for grocery and other stores and other donations will be collected depending on the need.

She has done other fundraisers, and has family members who are veterans, so the campaign resonated with her. She obtained the necessary approvals to collect donations.

Any individual wishing to donate to the Homeless Veterans Assistance Fund can mail a cheque, payable to The Joe Sweeney Fund, to Royal Canadian Legion, Ontario Command, 89 Industrial Pkwy. N., Aurora, ON, L4G 4C4. Tax receipts will be issued.


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Groundbreaking expected in 2017 for facility for homeless veterans

Post by Guest on Mon 25 Jul 2016, 10:29

Groundbreaking expected in 2017 for facility for homeless veterans.

Groundbreaking is finally expected next year, for a new facility in Ottawa that will help homeless veterans re-establish themselves.

The Ottawa Mission estimates between 6 and 9 per cent of the men using their shelter are veterans and Suzanne Le, the executive director of Multifaith Housing Initiative says it's become clear something must be done to help those who have served their country.

"A facility like this is desperately needed," said Le. "Originally we had planned to build only a 16-unit facility and then as the studies and the numbers started coming back, we realized that we needed to do a lot more than that. We sat down with our supports provider and discussed what was the largest facility we could build without making it feel like a facility, while allowing it to still be a home. Forty was the number we came up with."

Veterans House will provide permanent housing with a range of supports for veterans in need.

"It's not transitional housing," said Le. "They don't come in and do a program and then have to leave. They can stay as long as they want or need to stay. It's housing and then we bring all the supports to them and give them whatever their needs are."

The $8-million facility will be built on the former Rockcliffe Air Base. It's hoped that Veterans House will become a model that can be used across the country.

"They have some facilities like this in the United States and in the United Kingdom," said Le. "Both have done a pretty good job of taking care of their homeless veterans. Canada has done less of a good job. I think Canadians have been largely unaware of how big a problem this is. It's quite counter intuitive and shocking. In fact it's hard to believe even when you're faced with it."

Fundraising is currently underway for Veterans House. The National Capital Open to Support Our Troops held next month at the Hylands Golf Club aims to raise $100,000 for the project.


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Give rental subsidies to homeless vets

Post by Guest on Sun 28 Aug 2016, 16:57

Give rental subsidies to homeless vets: Veterans Affairs draft report.

AUGUST 28, 2016

OTTAWA — Veterans Affairs officials are ready to recommend that the federal government give rental subsidies to veterans who are homeless or nearly so in order to combat what they describe as an unacceptable situation in Canada.

A draft of the new federal strategy to combat homelessness among veterans also recommends the government build new affordable housing units specifically for veterans, suggesting Canada doesn’t have enough units to handle the unique needs of former military members who can have addiction and mental health issues related to their service.

The strategy says that what homeless veterans require is access to immediate housing, peer support and outreach to get them off the street, and months or even years of intensive case management with a broad range of services.

The draft strategy, dated Aug. 4 and obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act, says the government has an obligation to help the potentially thousands of veterans who are homeless in Canada.

A final draft of the strategy isn’t expected to be completed and made public until later this year.

The document doesn’t suggest that a veteran will ever go homeless again, but aims to reduce the numbers to a point where “homelessness is rare, brief and non-recurring, and no veteran is forced to live on the street.”

“As a department, we’ve got a mandate for the care, treatment and re-establishment to civilian life of veterans in general, and clearly somebody who is homeless is not successfully re-established in civilian society,” said Tim Kerr, director of the veterans priority programs secretariat at Veterans Affairs Canada, which is heading up work on the strategy.

“Because of that, our minister, and our deputy minister and I and my team believe that we have an obligation to address this issue of veteran homelessness.”

The recommendations, if implemented, would mark a shift in veterans benefits programs that leave no room to provide things like housing subsidies that have been successful in the United States at keeping veterans off the street.

Benefits only flow to Canadian veterans who show a link between their military service and their injury or disease, a difficult task for a veteran who becomes homeless a decade after his or her service, said Jim Lowther, president of Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada, a volunteer-based group that has helped about 1,200 veterans off the streets in the last six years.

Veterans affairs workers can get emergency funds from charitable trusts to help homeless veterans pay for rent or food, but the process can sometimes be lengthy, the document says. Instead, groups like VETS Canada and the Royal Canadian Legion step in to help pay for housing and supports.

“We need housing in every province designated housing for vets. We need transition homes in every province to help them get back on their feet,” Lowther said.

The strategy calls on the government to expand the eligibility criteria for benefits and services to help homeless veterans, give local offices the flexibility to quickly get emergency cash for a veteran in need, and better connect those local offices with local service providers to reach more homeless veterans.

Kerr, who spent 28 years in the navy, said the recommendations are based on years of research and months of work by the departmental task force. The strategy itself is a high-level document with the details of how to implement it to be worked out at a later date, he said.

It’s difficult to get an exact count on the number of veterans who are homeless in Canada.

A federal shelter study estimated about 2,250 veterans use shelters annually, but cautioned the actual number may be much higher. Point-in-time counts of homeless populations in cities show veteran form between five and seven per cent of the homeless population, which would put their number over 11,000.

Many homeless veterans in Canada avoid shelters, unlike their American counterparts, because the shelters lack the structure they were used to in the military, said Cheryl Forchuk, a professor of nursing at Western University in London, Ont.

The document says the average homeless veteran is over age 50, became homeless about 10 years after being released from service, and abuse alcohol or drugs.

There are cases of veterans two or three years out of the military who are homeless with some even sooner than that as they burn through savings while waiting for their military pensions to kick in, Lowther said.

Forchuk said research suggests post-traumatic stress disorder doesn’t appear to be a central factor in them becoming homeless.

The military could reduce the risk of a veteran becoming homeless by identifying early on whether they need help with things like money management, or substance use that left unchecked could manifest into addiction in a decade and push someone onto the street, Forchuk said.

“It’s just a matter of where your eyes are. The trauma issues and the PTSD are the obvious things at the top and they’re doing a relatively good job of at least paying some attention in addressing that, but substance use takes a long time to get really full-fledged, particularly alcoholism,” she said.

The document doesn’t call for the establishment of harm reduction programs where, for example, participants receive small amounts of alcohol at regular intervals to help them manage their addiction. The practice is politically contentious, but has been shown to have positive results.

Kerr said his group is looking into how to harm reduction programs could work in the overall strategy.


A by-the-numbers look at the state of homelessness among Canadian military veterans:

2,250: Estimated number of veterans who use shelters annually.

639: Homeless veterans registered in Veteran Affairs Canada’s database as of June 30.

232: Homeless veterans in the database who are between age 50 and 59.

138: Homeless veterans in the database who are over age 65.

235,000: Canadians who experience homelessness annually.

5-7: Range, in percentage points, of the homeless population who are veterans, based on municipal point-in-time homeless counts.

12,000: Estimated number of veterans experiencing homelessness in Canada, based on that spread.

40,000: Approximate number of veterans who experience homelessness in the United States annually.

47: Percent by which the United States has decreased veterans homelessness since 2010 using measures being considered by Veterans Affairs Canada.


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Re: Veteran Homelessness / Topics & Posted Articles

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