'We save lives': ex-soldiers help track down, support homeless veterans
Published Saturday, December 5, 2015 6:20PM EST
A group of volunteers made up of mostly former soldiers and RCMP officers are scouring Ottawa hoping to track down their former comrades who have fallen on hard times and now live on the streets.
The non-profit Veterans Emergency Transition Services was founded in Halifax five years ago to help out Canadian veterans who are in crisis, homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.
On Saturday, volunteers from the group made their inaugural walk in Ottawa, armed with maps showing the locations of local homeless shelters and emergency supplies.
"These are people that are usually independent, very capable young men and women, and it's very sad to see them in that state," said volunteer Steve Gribbon.
Veterans who are identified as homeless are immediately put up in a hotel, and then assigned a volunteer who will help provide them with support until they're back on their feet.
Gribbon said the organization acts “as an intermediary” with Canada’s Veterans Affairs department, and links the former service men and women with the help they need.
"Sometimes it’s things the department can help with, other times it is very simple things like storing some of their property," he said.
The group says that on average they track down 10 to 12 homeless veterans per walk.
While the exact number of homeless veterans in Canada is unknown, Jim Lowther, the group's founder, says they have helped more than 750 people get off the streets.
"It is a big issue and the more we are out there, the more we are finding," said Lowther, who is a former soldier.
And Lowther says the support provided through the program has lasting effects.
"We save lives," he said. "That's what we do -- we break the cycle of homelessness."