More help for Veterans is on the way.
The federal government announced funding to help reduce veteran homelessness in the 2021 budget in April. A total of $45 million over a two-year span will allow Employment and Social Development Canada to pilot a program aimed at reducing veteran homelessness, which is a key priority for the Royal Canadian Legion.
“I think it’s really good as long as they hit the key points,” said Darren Papish, president of the Stony Plain Legion, Branch 256. “A lot of vets are shy about coming forward (for help).”
Under the program, rent supplements and support services such as counselling, addiction treatment and help finding a job will be included. Another priority for the Legion is improving transition services for Veterans, and it is hoped the pilot program will help strengthen knowledge about what transition services work.
Over the years, the Legion has helped a lot of veterans in need with related matters. Veteran homelessness has been an issue in the region to a greater extent than it is in larger cities such as Edmonton or Calgary.
“There are vets in need for sure in this area. The problem is sometimes they don’t want to come out (for help)….people got to realize the Legion’s here to help. Don’t be shy to come forward because we’ll do everything we can to help you out,” he said.
There are a variety of reasons why veterans experience homelessness after returning to Canada from serving abroad, including financial issues, PTSD, anxiety, physical injuries, addictions and a lack of steady employment. Veteran homelessness has been taken up and addressed by governments and programs several times in recent years, but has not always been successful.
“I hope the program works,” said Papish. “I don’t know how much of that money is going to filter down to Legions because everything we do comes out of the poppy fund for helping veterans. A lot of these programs, from what I got from (the budget announcement), funding was more towards agencies that we can direct veterans to.”
Papish said many veterans do struggle with adapting to life after serving overseas and often just need help getting back on their feet. Despite mixed feelings from some veterans, the Legion does accept and appreciate funding veterans receive from the federal government and are especially grateful for the support from local residents.
“This community has been absolutely outstanding to this Legion and in supporting our veterans. It’s second to none in my opinion,” said Papish. “We don’t go out looking for the medals or for the recognition, but it is nice to know that the country has your back. I know this community definitely supports veterans and that’s amazing.”