Halifax searching for homeless veterans during the Tour of Duty walk
The annual event took place in 21 cities across the country on Saturday in attempt to help ease veterans back into society
Vets Canada held their third annual Tour of Duty walk Saturday to try and find homeless veterans across the country.
The organization’s Nova Scotia director of operations said events like these are critical to help the charity connect with veterans in need.
“Getting people out and getting the conversation going is what encourages those veterans to come forward and ask for help,” said Shawn Hambley, who got involved with Vets Canada after being posted to Halifax in 2015.
“Since 2014 we've responded to over 3,300 requests for assistance across the country… Without having those boots on the ground, getting people out in the community spreading that dialogue, there are veterans out there (who) don't even know that there's assistance ... for them.”
Twenty-one cities participated in the Vets Canada Coast to Coast Tour of Duty this year. Halifax’s Tour of Duty walk began at the Salvation Army on Gottingen St. before moving up towards Spring Garden Rd., where a dozen volunteers spoke to homeless people, distributing Tim Hortons gift cards and information about the program.
Hambley said it’s not just about finding homeless veterans; sometimes they may not find a veteran during the walk.
“Sometimes we don't directly interact with a homeless veteran on the streets,” he said. “But we might find someone who says 'Oh yeah, my buddy over at the shelter, he did mention that he is a veteran.’ We'll give him that information so maybe in a couple days, whenever that individual feels comfortable, they can reach out to us and we can provide assistance.”
According to Statistics Canada, 33 per cent of veterans leaving service in 2016 said they had a difficult or very difficult time adjusting to civilian life. Hambley said the demands of being in the armed forces make it difficult for any veteran trying to adjust to life outside.
“I see veterans coming from all different walks of life and all backgrounds. Some served for three years and some served for 30,” Hambley said.
“A lot of people just have difficulty transitioning from military service to civilian life, and once they take off the uniform, whether it's because they were released medically or just because they retired, they just have a hard time adapting to a different lifestyle.”
When the group locates a homeless veteran, Hambley said the first priority is finding them shelter before connecting them with programs they
may be eligible for through Veterans Affairs.
Hambley added the most important part of the event is just getting the word out that
homelessness is an issue in the community of veterans.
Shawn Hambley, right, talks to Dartmouth-cole Harbour MP Darren Fisher during the third annual Vets Canada Tour of Duty walk.