Sgt. Bill Webb (ret’d) is pictured with Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns, left, and his service dog, Jessie. Photo supplied

Sgt. Bill Webb (ret’d) is pictured with Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns, left, and his service dog, Jessie. Photo supplied

Vancouver Island retired sergeant advocates for homeless veterans

Operation Leave The Streets Behind an effort to help the about 2,000 vets who are on the street

A Royal Canadian Legion program — Operation Leave The Streets Behind — assists homeless veterans across the country. A veteran is identified as any person serving or who has served in the Canadian Forces or the RCMP.

Over the past year, Sgt. Bill Webb (ret’d) and other members of the Courtenay Legion have identified 14 homeless veterans in the Comox Valley. Some are vulnerable seniors, others are Gulf War and Afghan War veterans.

“Most we managed to get housed, but there’s still about half a dozen without a home,” said Webb, service officer at the Courtenay Legion. “There’s nothing here, so they’re competing against everybody for housing, even though the federal government has identified veterans at the top of the list (for housing), with Aboriginal and a few other groups.”

North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney said there’s an estimated 2,000 homeless veterans across Canada.

RELATED: Blaney pens letter to minister about veteran supports

RELATED: Federal money to help veterans find housing, basic services

“This is something that needs to be addressed, especially when you think about those numbers,” said Blaney, the NDP’s seniors’ critic. “That’s a manageable number. People who served our country should not be homeless.”

Webb suggests Veterans Affairs Canada is “way off” with its estimate, “based on what we have locally.” But he credits VAC for being a big help in terms of providing case managers, and getting people registered.

In February, 2019, Webb was one of many people who testified in Ottawa before the House Committee on Veterans Affairs (VA).

“We’reinthemidstofputtingtogetherahomelessstudy,specificallyforveterans,becauseveteransaren’tidentifiedproperly,”hesaid.

At a homeless shelter, for instance, if a worker asks a visitor if he or she is a veteran, Webb said 90 per cent will say no because they’re embarrassed, or they assume they don’t qualify because they didn’t serve long enough or didn’t tour. They are more likely to answer if asked: “Have you served in the Canadian Forces or the RCMP?”

Webb notes the Alberta-based Homes for Heroes Foundation grew out of a response to growing numbers of military veterans struggling with civilian life. He also notes the success of Cockrell House in Victoria, which provides transitional housing and services to help ex-military integrate back into society.

“Our hope is to build something up this way, to start providing targeted, specific housing for veterans,” Webb said. “I think it’s important that we start to do something locally.”

“The goal is to create a Cockrell House-style project in mid-Island,” Courtenay-Alberni MP Gord Johns added. “The fact that there’s nothing north of the Malahat is absolutely embarrassing for the federal government, because they’re responsible for housing when it comes to veterans and Indigenous people, yet they don’t invest in it.”

Operation Leave The Streets Behind started out of Ontario Command. The program’s mission is to reach out to homeless veterans and those at-risk of homelessness, and provide them with immediate financial assistance and support. It also connects them with the social and community services to establish a long-term solution to meet their needs.

If you know someone who served in the Canadian Armed Forces or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police who is homeless or at risk of homelessness, call 1-866-522-7708. For more information, go to the Veterans Services website.

To speak with a Veterans Affairs Canada mental health professional, call 1-800-268-7708.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

Just Posted

Nathan Zuk had left his mother’s residence in Whaletown on Cortes Island in mid-December 2020 in a 14’ skiff rowboat and headed to an unknown location near the Pryce Channel, Deer passage, or Toba Inlet. Photo courtesy RCMP
RCMP need help finding man who set off from Cortes Island in 14-foot rowboat

Nathan Zuk left in December, may have been last seen in Toba Inlet approximately three weeks ago

Terrance Mack would have celebrated his 34th birthday on May 13, 2021. Mack’s family has identified him as the victim of a homicide in an apartment on Third Avenue in Port Alberni sometime in April. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Family identifies Ucluelet man as victim of homicide in Port Alberni

Terrance Mack being remembered as ‘kind, gentle’ man

Royal Bay Secondary School’s rainbow crosswalk was vandalized shortly after being painted but by Monday, coincidentally the International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia, the crosswalk had been cleaned up and students had surrounded it with chalk messages of support and celebration. (Zoe Ducklow/News Staff)
Royal Bay pride crosswalk restored following graffiti attack

Hate terms, racial slur, phallic images spray-painted at Colwood high school

Fire investigators employ an aerial ladder truck to do an overhead inspection of fire damage to the Family Practice Clinic that was destroyed by a blaze on the weekend. (Chris Bush/News Bulletin)
Fire destroys Nanaimo medical clinic, doctors will try to keep helping patients

Investigators trying to determine cause of blaze at building on 104th Street

Protesters seen here rallying against the injunction order on April 1. (Black Press Media file photo)
RCMP enforce injunction at Fairy Creek blockade

Protesters can remain but police will ensure open access for loggers

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Emergency service workers at the collision scene along Highway 4 in Hilliers on Sunday, May 16. A motorcyclist was airlifted to hospital by BC Air Ambulance after sustaining life-threatening injuries. (Collin C photo)
Motorcyclist airlifted with life-threatening injuries after Mid-Island highway collision

BC Highway Patrol says impairment not a contributing factor in crash

(PQB News file photo)
RCMP on the hunt for serial Rathtrevor Beach flasher

Two separate incidents noted at provincial park on April 30 and May 14

Residents living in the 41-unit King George Apartments on Fifth Avenue and Argyle Street in Port Alberni will be able to remain there after the Canadian Mental Health Association and Province of B.C. partnered to purchase the building in May 2021. (SUSAN QUINN/ Alberni Valley News)
Province steps in to secure housing for Alberni apartment tenants

CHMA receives $3-million grant to help purchase building near city hall

An avalanche near Highway 1 in Glacier National Park. Avalanche Canada will benefit from a $10 million grant from the B.C. government. (Photo by Parks Canada)
Avalanche Canada receives $10-million grant from B.C. government

Long sought-after funds to bolster organization’s important work

Campbell River RCMP. RCMP photo
Two knife incidents reported on same day in Campbell River

Stabbing and knife fight both occured on May 13

Kayak the humpback whale was found dead on a Haida Gwaii beach on Saturday, May 15, 2021. (Marine Education and Research Society)
Kayak the humpback whale found dead on Haida Gwaii beach

Whale was estimated to be only 18 years old

Capt. Jenn Casey died in a crash just outside of Kamloops, B.C., on May 17, 2020. (CF Snowbirds)
Snowbirds to honour Capt. Casey, who died in B.C. crash, in 2021 tour

Tour will kick off in Ontario in June before heading west

Daily confirmed COVID-19 cases reported to B.C. public health, seven-day rolling average in white, to May 12, 2021. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C. preparing ‘Restart 2.0’ from COVID-19 as June approaches

Daily infections fall below 500 Friday, down to 387 in hospital

Most Read