Sick, homeless veteran falling through cracks in system

Workers in the Halifax homeless community say a veteran who has bounced between shelters and hospital for the last two days is slipping through the cracks of the system.

Homeless veteran Conrad Colpitts repeatedly bounced between shelter and hospital

Workers in the Halifax homeless community say a veteran who has bounced between shelters and hospital for the last two days is slipping through the cracks in the system.  

Conrad Colpitts, 58, returned from Alberta looking for family members in Nova Scotia about a week and a half ago.  

But without an income, and ill because he hadn't been able to afford medication, Colpitts ended up staying in a small apartment run by the Salvation Army's Centre of Hope shelter.  

Due to his poor health and need for treatment, staff at the shelter sent him to the QEII emergency room on Wednesday.

After being treated he was discharged and sent to Metro Turning Point shelter, which was unable to accept him for health reasons.  

He was then sent back to the emergency room.  

Colpitts was released back to the Salvation Army shelter on Friday afternoon. He will stay there for the weekend.

Local veterans' advocates said they're concerned about Colpitts' condition.

"I'm definitely worried his situation might get worse," said Jim Lowther, president of Veterans Emergency Transition Services Canada, a homeless veterans advocacy group.

The group has been visiting Colpitts at the Salvation Army and helping him out with supplies.

"We're looking after him, a shaving kit and stuff like that, to make sure he has toothpaste and a toothbrush," Lowther said. "Hopefully he'll have a good weekend and we won't need another trip to the ER."

Lowther said his group is urging the minister to allow Colpitts to be put in Camp Hill Veterans Memorial Hospital, a long-term care facility reserved for veterans of the Second World War and the Korean War.

Paul Craig, a housing support worker with the Salvation Army, said there comes a point when shelters can no longer look after individuals.  

"When someone is at a point where they can't physically tend to themselves, clean themselves, look after themselves, change themselves — there's an issue there that this is somebody that needs more support than just staying in a shelter can offer," said Craig.   

Though Colpitts lists a number of medical problems, keeping his diabetes under control is the main concern.   

"Double vision, disoriented, short term memory loss, shaking, trembling, couldn't stand, had mobility problems," Colpitts said, describing his symptoms.   

He's also had a lower bowel operation and uses a colostomy bag.  

The hospital arranges places at shelters for discharged homeless patients almost daily, but John Gillis, a media relations advisor for Capital Health, said it would "never discharge people out of the department without accommodation if there is any concern for their well-being."  

"The biggest factor in doing that is the capacity of shelters, and shelters often don't know what beds they may have available until late day. Shelters have the ability to accept or not accept people, based on a range of factors."  

Local veterans' advocates said they're worried Colpitts' condition would deteriorate in a shelter. They say he should be in a long-term care facility.

Veterans Affairs Canada has now taken over Colpitts' case.  

Niklaus Schwenker, a spokesperson for Veterans Affairs Minister Stephen Blaney, told CBC News Friday afternoon that the minister directed his office to look into the situation and keep him updated daily. The department may access a new emergency fund for homeless veterans to help Colpitts.

Colpitts said he served in the navy between 1971 and 1975.