Montreal pilot project finding permanent housing for city's homeless veterans
A new program launched in Montreal is aiming to find permanent housing for the city’s homeless veterans.
In conjunction with the Quebec Veterans Foundation and the federal government, the Old Brewery Mission officially launched The Sentinels of the Street pilot project during a press conference on Friday.
“A lot of them won't come to the resources here, so they'll be sleeping rough, sleeping outdoors, because they don't want to admit they haven't managed,” Old Brewery Mission President Matthew Pearce told CTV Montreal on Friday.
The program intends to provide 16 rent-subsidized apartments for homeless veterans as well as psychological support and access to adapted physical and mental health care service, according to its website.
Documents tabled in the House of Commons earlier this week revealed that the number of homeless veterans on the federal government’s radar is growing year over year in Canada.
There are 770 homeless veterans listed in Veterans Affairs Canada’s database, a number that is estimated to be actually much higher because the federal department is only able to count veterans who self-identify as homeless and have been registered to receive certain services.
Research suggests that veterans have unique needs, such as the symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder or physical disabilities, which require special attention, Brenda Fewster from the Old Brewery Mission Vets Committee said.
“The early research indicates that it takes about a decade of spiraling downwards before a veteran becomes homeless. What’s happening during that decade? Why do some veterans get into that spiral and why do others not?” Fewster asked. “What can we do to prevent it?
In Montreal, the Old Brewery Mission says that homeless veterans comprise 6 per cent of the city’s total homeless population.
“The number of people in uniform who end up being on the streets in Canada is just unacceptable,” said Retired Lt.-Gen. Yvan Blondin of the Quebec Veterans Foundation.
Laurent Boudreau used to be among those veterans. The former paratrooper for the Canadian Armed Forces told CTV Montreal that he never thought he would need to visit a homeless shelter, but his life took a turn after he left the military.
“I got some drug and alcohol problems and I got really depressed,” Boudreau said. “I was suicidal. So after a while I decided to come here and get some help.”
Thanks to The Sentinels of the Street program, Boudreau and eight other veterans have been able to find permanent homes and access to the services they need.
“It’s like my life is back on track and I don’t want to lose it,” Boudreau said.
Funding for the project is provided through the federal government’s Innovation Fund, which is part of its broader Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS). The government is expected to release a new housing strategy to tackle homelessness among veterans in the coming weeks.
With a report from CTV Montreal’s Denise Roberts and CTV News’ Rachel Aiello