New Brunswick

Group looks to help former soldiers living on Fredericton streets

A group of veterans walked through downtown Fredericton on Saturday in search of veterans who are living on the streets.

VETS Canada organized walks in 13 cities across Canada to bring attention to homeless veterans

Hank Merchant, a former member of the Canadian Armed Forces, was on Fredericton streets Saturday searching for veterans who are homeless. (CBC)

A group of veterans walked through downtown Fredericton on Saturday in search of veterans who are living on the streets.

"These are brothers in arms," said Hank Merchant, who served in the military during the 1960s and 1970s.

"These people served as I did and when somebody asks for help, as a brother, you reach out to help them."

Merchant said he has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) which prompted him to get involved in the walk.

'Pride gets in the way'

He was one of about 20 people, including out-reach workers and local Members of Parliament, who walked along King Street and Queen Street during the event.

VETS Canada organized walks in 13 cities across the country to bring attention to veterans facing homelessness and other challenges, such as PTSD.

Veterans speak with Rose Hayes and Stephen Barnett, who have lived on the streets, about local vets in need of assistance.

The non-profit charity has a contract with the federal government to provide services for vets living on the streets and in crisis.

The group helps veterans with everything from paying rent to dealing with a mental health crisis, according to J.J. Chiasson, a volunteer with the New Brunswick chapter of VETS Canada and a member of the military.

"It's kind of hard to fathom that there are those that are homeless and sometimes pride gets in the way and they don't seek help," he said. "Sometimes they just need a little hand up and they're fine." 

Reaching out to find former soldiers

The group holds monthly walks to speak with people on the streets. 

A March 2015 study by Employment and Social Development Canada, obtained by The Canadian Press earlier this year, estimates that 2,250 former soldiers use shelters on regular basis, about 2.7 per cent of the total homeless population that uses temporary lodging.

Chiasson said the group doesn't usually find veterans who are homeless immediately on the walks, as was the case on Saturday.

But the group did come across other people living on the streets who were able to alert them to vets in need of help.


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