11 June 2012
HALIFAX – The Royal Canadian Legion has announced a new national homeless veterans initiative at it’s 44th Dominion Convention being held in Halifax this week.
The national “Leave The Streets Behind” initiative takes advantage of programs already being run by four of its provincial commands. It also provides money from Dominion Command to help with start-up costs (half a million dollars).
“Our commands and branches have been assisting homeless veterans in a multitude of ways going back to the day we were formed in 1926,” says Dominion President Patricia (Pat) Varga who announced the new program. “What this program is meant to do is to take a basic program nation-wide and provide the start-up funds so that each Provincial Command can get involved in this effort,” she adds.
“It will ensure that Provincial Commands and the branches will reach out to the homeless and near homeless proactively and to show that the Legion cares,” she concludes.
The program’s mission is to reach out to the homeless and near homeless veterans by providing immediate financial assistance and support and to connect them with social and community services to establish a long-term solution.
Since 1926 The Royal Canadian Legion has taken care of Canada’s veterans through representation and the provision of benevolent assistance if necessary. The services have included assisting homeless and near homeless veterans. In more recent years some Legion provincial commands have developed programs directly aimed at assisting homeless veterans:
- BC/Yukon Command has built Cockerell House in Victoria. It is a transition house.
- Alberta-NWT Command has operated a food bank for more than 20 years to assist veterans in the community and is engaged with first responders in identifying and assisting homeless or near homeless veterans. It has also built a transition house in the Calgary area – Maddison House.
- Ontario Command launched the “Leave The Streets Behind” program provincially in 2010.
- NS/Nunavut Command launched a “Veterans Outreach Program” to bring together community resources and establish partnerships to provide proactive assistance to the homeless and near homeless veterans.
At the same time Legion branches across the country have been fielding a number of Poppy Trust Funds requests from veterans of all ages. These requests have been to help with rent to avoid eviction, food, clothing and other emergency needs. The majority of these are filed by the near homeless veteran.
These programs, independently organized, provided the foundation for a national homeless veterans’ program. To address this requirement, the Veterans Service and Seniors Committee of Dominion Command established the national “Leave The Streets Behind” program. The program would ensure that every provincial command established a homeless or near homeless veterans’ program to meet their unique needs while adopting the basic tenets adhered to by Ontario Command:
- usage of existing infrastructure;
- providing emergency and immediate assistance while waiting for long-term assistance;
- facilitating the bridge between the veteran and long-term support and stability;
- assistance in navigating Veterans Affairs Canada or community programs;
- partner with community resources and services; and
- engaging Veterans Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence.
The mission of the program is to reach out to the homeless and near homeless veterans by providing immediate financial assistance and support when and where needed and to connect them with the appropriate social and community services to establish a long term solution.
The financial resources will be provided by Dominion Command to provide for the start-up of a program and Ontario Command has offered to assist other commands in the start up of their own programs.
The “Leave The Streets Behind” initiative will ensure that all provincial commands and their branches will reach out proactively to the homeless and near homeless veterans in Canada.
For further information please contact Bruce Poulin at Dominion Command, The Royal Canadian Legion, at (613) 591-3335 ext. 241 or by cell at (613) 292-8760.
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