Seeking to provide aid and comfort to homeless and at-risk vets, Veterans Emergency Transition Services Canada (VETS Canada) opened a drop-in and support centre in Ottawa on Sept. 17.
The centre, being described as the first of its kind in Canada, is located in the downtown at 517 Besserer Street and will be open seven days a week with a full-time VETS Canada staff person to assist clients. The centre provides veterans with a safe, welcoming space where they can receive immediate peer, emotional and emergency support.
“From our research and conversations with hundreds of struggling Veterans across the country, we have learned that those who served are in desperate need of a ‘one-stop shop. A safe place where they can go and receive immediate support and services from qualified personnel and Veterans, without having to chase a referral to another location or service,'” VETS Canada CEO/President and founder Jim Lowther said in a statement. “At the Drop-In Centre, we can provide emergency aid immediately, along with numerous other valuable services right within the centre’s walls.”
The Centre includes a lounge, computer centre, library, common/social area, laundry facilities and phone station. Veterans will also be able to access food and travel support, and connection to external resources, such as Veterans Affairs Canada and community organizations.
VETS Canada, a national charity and service provider of Veterans Affairs Canada, is the largest 24/7 Canadian organization dedicated to addressing the emergency needs of homeless and in-crisis Veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces and RCMP with a network of 135,000 across the country. It was formed by Lowther, a veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces who deployed to Bosnia and served onboard the HMCS Halifax as a member of the Boarding Party during Op Apollo before being medically released in 2005.
VETS Canada was formed in 2010 with the recognition that veterans were not making the successful transition from the military careers to their civilian lives. Veterans were losing their families, living in the streets or at-risk of being homeless or being suicidal. VETS Canada attempts to move veterans from the streets or shelters into affordable housing while connecting them with health care, assisting them in accessing benefits and services from other organizations, and supporting them in finding suitable employment. In 2014, VETS Canada received a contract from Veterans Affairs Canada to act as an approved Veterans Affairs Service provider in the field of homeless and in-crisis veteran outreach. The following year, the organization launched Guitars for Vets program which offers peer support through guitar lessons.
The centre’s official opening will take place with a reception on Sept. 24 beginning at 6 p.m.