Shocking statistics spark calls for action to help homeless veterans
NDP MP Peter Stoffer speaks from his office is shown in Fall River, N.S. on Monday, Sept. 20, 2010. (Andrew Vaughan / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Tuesday, August 6, 2013 6:41PM ADT
Some shocking statistics on homeless veterans are prompting calls for new action to help former military members at risk of falling through the cracks.
According to a survey conducted in Toronto, 16 per cent of homeless people in Ontario’s capital city had served in the military at one time or another, and there are many veterans living on Maritime streets as well.
A veteran started the Veterans Emergency Transition Services program in Halifax three years ago to help homeless veterans in need.
“He was serving, volunteering in a soup kitchen, and he saw a guy that he knew,” says Barry Yhard, executive director of the program. “In fact, the guy was volunteering in the same soup kitchen. Turns out the guy was homeless.”
There are at least 50 veterans who are homeless or at risk of landing on the streets. Many of them served in Bosnia and Afghanistan and some suffer from mental or physical illness.
Residential co-ordinator Paul Craig sees some of them at the Salvation Army Centre of Hope. He says he wants to break a vicious cycle.
“Help end the cycle of people getting outhoused, falling and coming back to the shelter services again,” says Craig.
Veterans Affairs and the Royal Canadian Legion have expanded a pilot project to help homeless veterans but NDP MP Peter Stoffer says it’s not enough. He says veterans need follow-ups as soon as they leave the service.
“Every couple of months, someone from DVA would call up and say ‘hi Mr. Smith’ or ‘Miss Jones, how are you doing? We’re just seeing, is there anything you need or is everything fine?’ and do a tracking system,” says Stoffer.
He says veterans who face the challenge of surviving on the streets need help locating services and resources, and not be left with a pile of paperwork.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Ron Shaw