Homeless vets need more help in Ottawa, councillor urges

Homeless military veterans living on Ottawa streets are going unnoticed and there needs to be an improvement in local support services, according to a city councillor.

Toronto system helping to identify veterans at homeless shelters with questionnaires

Some Canadian veterans are not receiving support as they live on the streets and go unnoticed by Veterans Affairs Canada. (Pawel Dwulit/The Canadian Press)

Canadian military veterans living on Ottawa's streets need more help, according to an Ottawa city councillor, who is trying to push officials to improve the co-ordination of support services.

Coun. Steve Desroches, who represents the ward of Gloucester-South Nepean, said he believes all the necessary support programs exist in Ottawa to help homeless military veterans.

But Desroches said they are disconnected and not as effective as they could or should be, which means many homeless veteran live under the radar.

"If we can help by identifying them and making sure they're getting the programs they need, I think we'll have succeeded," Desroches said.

"This is about tapping in to the good work the Royal Canadian Legion is doing."

Veterans affairs system is 'complicated:' former ombudsman

Unemployment, mental health issues and difficulties navigating a complicated system at Veterans Affairs Canada are all contributing factors to military veterans living on the streets, according to Pat Stogran, the former ombudsman for Veterans Affairs Canada.

"There are many instances where it is easily remedied. It's of everyone's advantage to put these people back into the mainstream society," said Stogran, a veteran himself.

Toronto has taken steps towards helping homeless veterans, according to the Legion's Ontario executive director.

The Legion in Ontario's capital helps those veterans between 20 and 84 years old find housing, which is aided by a questionnaire at all homeless shelters that help identify veterans.

If a shelter user indicates they served in the military, staff members try to introduce them into the program where there is assistance from Veterans Affairs Canada.

Veterans Affairs Canada also invested almost $4 million in August 2012 for local programs throughout the country, including Toronto, to help homeless veterans.

"Our efforts to address homeless veterans have helped hundreds leave the streets of Canadian cities behind," according to a statement from a spokesman for Veterans Affairs Minister Steven Blaney.

"One veteran on the street is far too many."

A motion has been put forward at community and protective services committee to work towards a similar system in Ottawa.

With files from the CBC's Julie Ireton