Montreal homeless shelter to offer temporary housing for veterans

A Montreal homeless shelter is trying to help veterans, including Daniel Lalonger, get off the street.

Pilot project of Old Brewery Mission funded by federal government now housing 9 veterans

Daniel Lalonger, 56, served in the military for a year and a half. He has since spent much of his adult life struggling to find a permanent home. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)

A Montreal homeless shelter is trying to help veterans get off the street.

The Old Brewery Mission announced Friday morning that it has launched a program — Sentinels of the Street — offering temporary housing for former soldiers.

"Homelessness is an intolerable and unacceptable situation. It's even more so for people who have at some point in their lives donned a uniform and decided to put their lives on the line in the interests of Canadians," said Matthew Pearce, president and CEO of the Old Brewery Mission.

According to a study published in 2016, there are roughly 2,250 veterans in Canada who are homeless.

Pearce says the Old Brewery Mission was already hosting about 45 of them in Montreal.

The numbers prompted the shelter to create a program and pitch the idea to Ottawa.

"They gave us funding for a pilot program. It basically is funding us to house nine veterans. Now it's just nine but it's the first step in determining if we are on the right path," said Pearce.

Matthew Pearce, head of the Old Brewery Mission, says the shelter already hosts about 45 homeless veterans. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)

Another seven veterans will join soon, for a total of 16.

Daniel Lalonger is one of them.

The 56-year-old says he spent about a year and a half with the forces, but never served overseas.

Lalonger drifted from job to job. He did some jail time and has spent much of his adult life struggling to find a permanent home.

"I've tried. I've tried to have a good job, have an apartment. But sometimes you lose the job. No money, no candy, no apartment," Lalonger told CBC.

Besides getting a furnished apartment, the veterans also meet with an outreach worker.

"We offer psycho-social follow-up on a weekly basis and we're able to give them a minimum in terms of amenities. So a bed, a chair, whatever they might need in order to consolidate the apartment rather than come into an apartment that is empty," said Georges Ohana, who is in charge of the Sentinels of the Street program.

But Ohana says the slope is still a steep one to climb.

"You're not going from being poor to rich., You're going from being homeless to poor, but you're still poor. You still have to survive in Montreal."

Ohana and Pearce hope the funding can be extended and they would like to see the program be instilled in shelters Canada-wide.

"Once you've got a roof over your head and stable surroundings, you can imagine a better life and you can move on to better realities and that's what we see happening now," Pearce said.

With files from CBC's Jay Turnbull