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

StarMetro Halifax - - COVER STORY - Silas Brown FOR STARMETRO HAL­I­FAX Con­tinue read­ing about Canada’s veter­ans at thes­tar.com/hal­i­fax

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.

SILAS BROWN/FOR STARMETRO HAL­I­FAX

Shawn Ham­b­ley, right, talks to Dart­mouth-cole Har­bour MP Dar­ren Fisher dur­ing the third an­nual Vets Canada Tour of Duty walk.

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