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Old Brewery Mission helps homeless vets

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Old Brewery Mission – On November 10, the Old Brewery Mission (OBM) announced a new pilot project specifically designed to help military veterans who find themselves homeless in Montreal. Fittingly, it was one day before Remembrance Day and the season’s first dusting of snow had just fallen.

There are some 2,500 homeless veterans across Canada; in Montreal about 6 percent of our local homeless population is composed of veterans according to the OBM. This population often suffers from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of things they have seen or experienced in the line of duty. This puts them at a higher risk of suicide than the general population. Consequently, the OBM is implementing Quebec’s first pilot project to provide sustainable housing solutions and psychosocial support services specifically for the needs of former military personnel.

OBM press conference. From left: Yvan Blondin, Matthew Pearce (OBM CEO), Colin Robinson, Paule Gonod, Philip Johnston ©John Symon

“Sometimes even the bravest most resilient people need our help, and that’s why the Fondation Quebecoise des veterans (previously the Ste-Anne’s Hospital Foundation) is partnering with the OBM to provide on only funding, but much-needed outpatient service for mental health problems and various rehabilitation programs,” said Lieutenant General (ret) Yvan Blondin.

He briefly described his career of 35 years in the Canadian Army, including tours in Afghanistan: “I’m a lucky one, I returned with both arms and legs and in good mental health. On Remembrance Day, we think of those who gave their lives. But many others suffer from PTSD or lost limbs. These are the new veterans; many are now on the street. We need to give them more than just pocket change…”

A short video featuring veteran Mario Gagné praising the services offered by OBM, without which Gagné believes he would be dead.

Friday’s press conference featured a musical interlude with voice and guitar by Victoria, 25, who described herself as the granddaughter of a World War II Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) vet. The song was about finding an old guitar on the street and fixing it up.

“I didn’t originally intend this song to be about my grandfather. But he was like that, too, picking up broken things and fixing them. He was also musically talented, but this talent skipped a generation and I have it now and play in a rock band,” Victoria told The Times. “My grandfather sometimes used the services offered by OBM.”

Homelessness is not a problem limited to men according to Philip Johnston of the OBM. “We now have two pavilions dedicated to women with some 40 beds. The government realizes it is important to provide funding for homeless women.” He added that most homeless veterans are men, reflecting the composition of the armed forces.

“But the answer is not simply providing housing; you have to also address the root problem. For women, they are often they are the victims of bad treatment. For men, the root problem is more likely PTSD or addictions to substances and/or gambling. These issues need to be addressed,” said Johnston.

Although it is receiving government and corporate support, the Old Brewery Mission is also seeking private donations to meet its annual needs of almost $11 million. Among many other services, OBM provides about 235,000 meals annually for the homeless. The charity can issue tax receipts. For more information, call: 514.788.1884 or email: fondation@missionoldbrewery.ca

 

By: John Symon – mtltimes.ca

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