November 18, 2019

Helping the Homeless in Ottawa

World Homeless Day was last month. Remembrance Day was November 11th. Both remind us that homelessness, including veterans’ homelessness, remains an important issue in our society that requires our attention, empathy, dedication, compassion and fierce resolve to end it. Individuals who have served our country and protected our freedom should never be relegated to the streets when they return home.

The City of Ottawa recently conducted a Point-inTime (PiT) count, which surveyed 1400 people experiencing homelessness, of which 65 (or approximately 5%) identified as being veterans. This proportion is consistent with the findings of a national PiT count. One thing we know for sure, however, is that the issue of veterans’ homelessness is vastly under-reported. Some veterans will hide the fact that they have served, due to the stigma that is associated with being homeless and its contributing factors like mental-health challenges and addictions. At Shepherds of Good Hope, we work every day to support people who are homeless by providing specialized services that address trauma, mental-health challenges and addictions. The team at Maxsys Staffing and Consulting Group has a passionate and personal interest in the particular needs of those who have served our country. Working together has been a natural fit for our organizations. Maxsys has donated financially to Shepherds of Good Hope for the past 24 years and, more recently, contributed by donating their time to serve meals to the homeless.

Last June, the federal government adopted a non-binding motion to end veterans’ homelessness by 2025. This is an issue that has widespread public support and is one of the rare issues that politicians agree on across party lines.

There are a number of organizations across the country doing fantastic work on this issue. The Homes for Heroes Foundation recently opened a tiny-house village for homeless veterans in Calgary, with plans to expand this to other sites across the country. Right here in Ottawa, the Multifaith Housing Initiative along with other partners has started construction on Veterans’ House, a supportive-housing building on the former Rockcliffe Air Base designed specifically for homeless veterans. To help find and support the veterans who might benefit from programs like these, Shepherds of Good Hope has collaborative working relationships with both VETS Canada and Soldiers Helping Soldiers, with both groups coming in to serve in our soup kitchen and evening drop-in, while our case managers actively refer clients to VETS Canada’s drop in on Besserer Street.

Ending homelessness for the thousands that are without homes in communities across our country can seem daunting, but with political will and community support we can do it. We can show our homeless veterans, who have given so much to our country, that it’s our turn to give to them. On this Remembrance Day, thank a soldier. Thank all of those who have served or are serving our country. Let’s commit to prioritizing them every day and celebrate our partnerships with those who share our goals to end veterans’ homelessness.

Shepherds of Good Hope and Maxsys Staffing and Consulting are in this together. We hope you’ll join us. For more information on how you can help, please contact us at Bryan Brulotte is the CEO of Maxsys Staffing and Consulting and an Honorary Colonel with the Canadian Armed Forces, with over 30 years of service both in and out of uniform. Deirdre Freiheit is the President and CEO of Shepherds of Good Hope and the Shepherds of Good Hope Foundation. She has been a leader in the not-for-profit sector for over two decades.