Thunder Bay

Veteran homelessness focus of annual walk

Organizers of an annual Canadian walk dedicated to supporting military veterans who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, are calling this weekend's event a success.

Thunder Bay was one of 21 Canadian cities to host VETS Canada Coast to Coast Tour of Duty walk

Volunteers with Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada took part in the third annual Coast to Coast Tour of Duty in 21 Canadian cities on Saturday. The walk raises awareness of veteran homelessness, and locates veterans in need. Thunder Bay was one of the cities where the walks took place. (VETS Canada/Facebook)

Organizers of an annual Canadian walk dedicated to supporting military veterans who are homeless, or at risk of becoming homeless, are calling this year's event a success.

The annual Veteran Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada Coast to Coast Tour of Duty walk took place in 21 Canadian cities on Saturday, with Thunder Bay among them.

The purpose of the walk is two-fold, said Jim Lowther, CEO of VETS Canada. First, it raises awareness about the issue of homeless military veterans. And second, it locates veterans who are homeless, or at risk of becoming so, and in need of help.

"There's a lot that are struggling," Lowther told CBC News. "There's a lot that are in crisis who are just on the tip of becoming homeless, who are couch surfing, who are living in vehicles and tents."

This year's walk identified 21 veterans in need of support, Lowther said. One of those was in Thunder Bay.

'Veterans will check you out'

And that number may climb in the coming days.

"Veterans will check you out," Lowther said. "They'll check you out to see if you're legit, and if you can do anything. If you can't do anything for them, there's no use for them to call you."

"We had 21 that we know identified as veterans across the country," he said. "But we'll probably get 100 come in over the next week, who took a flyer of a pamphlet, or was told about us."

Volunteer-driven

Lowther said when a veteran does come to VETS Canada seeking help — calls can come from Veterans Affairs Canada case managers, or directly to VETS Canada through its 24-hour, staffed, toll-free number — their service is verified, and volunteers will go check on the veteran.

They can immediately be put in a hotel or motel, and they're checked for injuries or health issues. Then, VETS Canada goes through their service in more detail.

"A lot of veterans are entitled to benefits they don't even know about," Lowther said. "If we can get them their benefits right off the bat, it really helps to stabilize them, and helps them make that successful transition."

VETS Canada volunteers will continue to work with the veteran until they're back on their feet, Lowther said.

Lowther said six people participated in Thunder Bay's walk on Saturday. Most of the people who volunteer and participate in the walks are veterans themselves. Serving military members also participate, as do family members.

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