Veterans’ motorcycle club raises funds in Cornwall for homeless soldiers

Their fighting days in the Second World War and War in Afghanistan may be over but veterans continue to fall through the cracks.

A group of former soldiers and supporters held a stand outside the Eastcourt Mall this past weekend, raising money to help them.

“We should never have a homeless veteran,” said Wanda Duffy Berthiaume, secretary and treasurer of the Canadian Army Veterans Motorcycle Club Korea Unit. “They fought for us to be here.”

The unit is raising money for the Andy Carswell building, a 40-unit residence for homeless veterans that will be the first of its kind in Canada when it opens in November 2020. It will be located on the site of the former CFB Rockcliffe, in Ottawa.

“Sadly enough, we have some veterans that are homeless, because of mental illness, sickness; they cannot join civilian life,” said Michel Joannette, president of the club.

There is a difference between mental health and mental illness. Individuals are diagnosed by a psychiatrist, psychologist, nurse practitioner, or family doctor if they have a mental illness, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association Champlain East.

Spearheaded by the Ottawa charity Multifaith Housing Initiative and seeded with a donation from John Carswell’s company, Canso Investment Council, the Andy Carswell Building will house 40 veterans who are living on the street or at risk of becoming homeless. The project also has the backing of the Royal Canadian Legion, Veterans Affairs Canada, Soldiers Helping Soldiers, True Patriot Love, and the Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services.

A lot of the legions are closed, so they state the club can’t count on them. They planned to have five different rides, but they can only host three.

“They did start to build a homeless veterans home in Ottawa, at Rockcliffe, that’s the old air force base there,” said Joannette. “Of course, they need to money for that.”

Residents at the home will receive services such as counselling and mental health support provided by Ottawa Salus. On average, participants had been homeless for about eight years, and had been out of the military for an average of 28.4 years, according to Statistics Canada

Alcoholism, drug addictions and mental health issues were cited as major factors contributing to their homelessness. The At Home and Chez Soi project by the Mental Health Commission of Canada found veterans and non-veterans to have similar addiction and mental health issues.

This is a four-year project in five cities that aimed to provide practical, meaningful support to Canadians experiencing homelessness and mental health problems

It is estimated that 2,250 veterans use homeless shelters each year in Canada. About 2.7% of annual shelter users were identified as veterans.

To donate you can contact Berthiaume at [email protected]

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Source: Cornwall Standard-Freeholder