An initiative by Algonquin students aiming to raise awareness about vulnerable veterans in the community was held April 8 Montgomery branch of the Legion downtown Ottawa.
Hope For Ottawa’s Homeless Veterans, was organized by graduating social service worker students Candace Moreau, Alex Smith, Nancy Do and Leanne Conley as part of an assignment for their community development class.
The four ladies wore red at the event in honour of Red Fridays, which is a movement by the Red Fridays Foundation of Canada that focuses on bringing awareness to supporting Canadian troops.
The group believed that giving back to the Ottawa veterans community needed to be a priority, especially since the Ottawa vets chapter only started five months ago.
Moreau explained that all of the organizers are connected to the military in one way or another.
“The thought of having someone who fought for your country live out on the streets just gives me chills. Nobody, especially a vet, should ever have to go through that,” said Moreau.
According to the Canadian Press, the federal government estimated in March 2015 that 2,250 former soldiers use shelters on regular basis, which represents about 2.7 per cent of the total homeless population that uses temporary lodging.
The average age of homeless veterans is 52. Many ex-soldiers cite alcoholism, drug addiction and mental health issues as reasons for their circumstances.
The figures come from a database which tracks 60 emergency shelters across the country.
The funds raised from Hope For Ottawa’s Homeless Veterans will be divided between the VETS Canada Ottawa chapter and Algonquin’s Syd Ford Memorial Emergency Fund.
Syd Ford was one of the founding professors of Algonquin’s social service worker program.
“He was known for taking five dollars out of his pocket whenever he saw a student in need or when he suspected that they may not have eaten that day and would quietly buy the student a sandwich,” said student Conley.
After his death, the faculty in the social service worker program at the college established a fund to honour Syd’s memory.
Over 200 people, including deputy mayor Bob Monette and Kanata-Carleton MP Karen McCrimmon, attended the event held at the Montgomery branch of the Legion on Friday evening.
Student organizer Conley said the group was “completely overwhelmed” by the amount of support and donations they received from the community.
Debbie Lowther, chair and cofounder of VETS Canada travelled from Halifax to attend the event. “Our veterans matter,” said Lowther. “You are showing them how much they matter by being here tonight.”