Program launched to get homeless veterans off the street

The spotlight is once again being focused on the lack of government services available to Canadian veterans.

Homeless veterans 'failed' by federal government, says Fredericton soup kitchen director

The number of veterans relying on the Fredericton Community Kitchen has grown over the last few years. Arlene Basker, executive director, said the government has failed them. (CBC)

The spotlight is once again being focused on the lack of government services available to Canadian veterans.

The Royal Canadian Legion announced Wednesday it will launch — and fund — a program to help get veterans off the street. It’s a service the legion says the federal government should be providing.

Arlene Basker, executive director of the Fredericton Community Kitchen, said she sees all sorts of people coming through the soup kitchen — including retired soldiers.

“We see four, five veterans per month that are new to us,” she said.

Basker said the number of veterans relying on the soup kitchen has grown over the last few years — and they're young. Many of them in their 30s and 40s. She said the government has failed them.

"They have put themselves on the line for us but when their lives are on the line, it's, ‘Can we see you next month, we might be able to squeeze you in.’ We certainly didn't say that when we sent them over to Afghanistan," she said.

The Royal Canadian Legion in the province is trying to fill the gap. It has launched a local chapter of Leave the Streets Behind, a national program that helps homeless veterans.

"I don't know what they would do without the legion because that's our main goal is to help our veterans and the community," said Paul Poirier, chairman of the N.B. chapter of the Leave the Streets Behind program.

Poirier said rent money and food are the main concerns for veterans on the street. 

"We found six that needed our help and we're presently working on two or three other cases," he said.

Poirier said those people came forward before the official launch of the program. He said the program will be run and funded by the Royal Canadian Legion with the money coming from the Poppy Fund.

The program will reach out to other community groups like the soup kitchen in Fredericton to help find any veterans in need. Basker said she hopes the federal government also steps up with help soon.

"Today, not next week, not next month. I know things don't happen in a day, however, sometimes you need them to happen in a day. As you see, we're losing our soldiers, suicide rate is up — tomorrow is not going to help that soldier," she said.


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