Support for Veterans homelessness © News Canada/APPLEADSTUDIO
In communities across Canada, people and organizations are raising awareness of the contributions of those who’ve served in Canada’s armed forces.
These are acts like delivering humanitarian aid after Haiti’s devastating earthquake; serving in Panjway, Afghanistan; rescuing people stranded by floods or ice storms; or stepping in at long-term care homes during COVID-19.
Often, communities raise awareness by creating memorials and monuments and holding commemorative events. These activities honour the accomplishments and sacrifice of local people who have served the country in uniform. Commemorative activities also help bring communities together by uniting neighbours.
These types of projects even could qualify for financial support from a federal funding program designed to help communities commemorate members and veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Veterans Affairs Canada’s Commemorative Partnership Program supports organizations undertaking remembrance activities. These can include the construction, restoration or expansion of a community war memorial, an exhibit, learning materials or commemorative events. Past projects that have qualified include a series of concerts to honour those who served in the Korean War, as well as exhibits showcasing the service of Indigenous veterans and the contributions of veterans during times of conflict.
Similarly, Veterans Affairs Canada is supporting veterans facing homelessness through a variety of programs. Staff across the country are focusing outreach efforts to support and engage homeless veterans and those at risk of homelessness.
“The State of Homelessness in Canada 2013” study reported that at least 200,000 Canadians experience homelessness each year, and of that number, approximately four per cent are veterans.
In 2011, veteran homelessness expert Cheryl Fornchuk conducted a study, which suggested that the difficulty in transitioning to civilian life after returning from service was one of the most common reasons for homelessness among veterans.
“The transition [from military to civilian life] is like being on Mars and coming back to Earth,” a veteran from the study shared.
To alleviate these issues, Veterans Affairs Canada is working with veterans groups and orchestrating their own programs. They offer services such as veterans emergency fund, health care, mental health services and support, financial support, employment support, case management, and more.
As the homelessness crisis continues to rise among veterans, more organizations are stepping up to support them. In addition to Veterans Affairs Canada, the Royal Canadian Legion has launched financial programs, partnered with other organizations, and launched an action plan to prevent and eradicate veterans’ homelessness.
Their programs include financial assistance, along with working closely with Veterans Affairs Canada to find shelters and housing. Similarly, the Legion launched a national homeless Veterans program called Leave the Streets Behind. The program operates in Ontario, British Columbia, Yukon, Alberta, Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, and New Brunswick Commands.
“I came into the shelter for a shower and came out with a life,” an anonymous Veteran shared with the Legion.