Alberta advocates search for homeless veterans, call for action
Search for homeless veterans and food bank drive has advocates calling for help from federal government
A group that works to support Canadian veterans hit the streets in cities across the country Saturday, to look for homeless veterans, including in Calgary and Edmonton.
But some say the federal Liberals made promises about veterans while campaigning, that have yet to materialize.
Steve Gilliss, with the Calgary chapter of VETS Canada, says he had hoped to see more support from the Liberals eight months after the election.
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The Liberals promised to restore lifelong pensions to injured veterans, but didn't include that in the March budget.
Gilliss says he reached out to Veteran Affairs Minister Kent Hehr's office about attending this weekend's homelessness event, but never heard back.
"You hear that from the vets themselves saying, 'Where is our support?' " Gilliss said.
"You know with this government change, what's happened in the past six months, eight months. Why haven't we seen you follow through on the promises you made on your campaign?"
Some say Alberta veterans have recently been struggling even more, not only for housing, but also for food.
Navy vet Jim Welsh says that's, in part, because donations have recently gone north.
Welsh held an impromptu food drive in Calgary to gather items for the veterans food bank.
The "Stuff this Truck" event is normally held in the week leading up to Remembrance Day.
"With the evacuation of Fort Mac, all the food banks in Calgary pulled together and sent a bunch of product north," Welsh said.
"Two weeks ago I went into the veterans food bank on other business and I walked in the door and the shelves were empty, I mean empty."
In Edmonton, a veterans advocate says it's important to get politicians involved.
Darrell Beaton led a team of volunteers looking for homeless veterans.
"They're the ones that stood up for us," Beaton said. "So we're out here looking for our brothers to give them a hand up."
Beaton, an army retiree, invited local politicians such as MP Randy Boissonnault to join the walk.
"It affects how we look at things through a policy lens," Boissonnault said about meeting veterans in his community.
Boissonnault represents Edmonton Centre where many of the city's homeless shelters are. He described the walk as eye-opening.
Anytime VETS Canada connects with a homeless veteran, its members help that individual find the resources they need to stand on their own again.
Stephen Gallard said he still feels a sense of kinship to others in the military, even though he retired years ago.
He joined VETS Canada to extend that same support to homeless veterans.
"When you're ex-military or retired … and you're on the street with addiction issues or with mental health issues, you won't go up to garrison because it's too embarrassing," Gallard explained.
"People might see you and know you. So this really appealed to me because we meet them where they are," he said.
The federal government estimates there are at least 2,250 homeless veterans in Canada.
With files from Kate Adach and Zoe Todd