Sentinels of the Streets pilot project gives homeless veterans in Montreal chance to rebuild lives
Lawrence Boudreault had some great times as a Canadian army commando in the now defunct Canadian Airborne Regiment. But when he left he had trouble re-adapting to civilian life.
“When I left the military, it took me one year before I became normal again,” he said, “more quiet, less aggressive.”
He blames it on the rigorous training he received as a young soldier and the lack of support from the Canadian Forces once he left.
“You don’t form an elite force and then you just let the guy go,” he says, stressing that some kind of support group would’ve helped him. “You can’t do that and then ask the guy to behave normally.”
Returning to civilian life led to a series of problems over the years, including being homelessness. But he finally got help, thanks to a new program for homeless veterans. Now, he has a roof over his head and he is trying to rebuild his life.
It’s called The Sentinels of the Streets and is a one-year pilot project that began in April. The Old Brewery Mission is spearheading the project with help from the federal government and the Quebec Veterans Foundation.
Matthew Pearce is President and CEO of the mission, and says, “we looked in our database of clients, and we found that there are about 45 individual homeless veterans coming to our doors every year.”
Retired Lt.-Gen. Yvan Blondin of the Quebec Veterans Foundation is dismayed at the number of homeless veterans, especially because of the personal sacrifices that some have made serving.
“I saw suicides, I saw broken marriages, I saw the effects of post-traumatic stress. And as sad as it is, I’m not surprised that some of them end up in the street.”
The program helps the vets find an affordable place to live and supports them until they get back on their feet.
“They pay half the rent for a year, and they also give you all new furniture,” said Boudreault.
It’s the first program in the country that focuses specifically on homeless vets that is funded by the federal government’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy. The federal government provides about $350,000 of the $450,000 budget and hopes to use it as a model for other programs across the country.
Boudreault was one if the first to get help through the program and thinks other homeless vets he knows can also benefit.
I owe them my life,” he points out, “because I was very depressed and I was thinking about suicide. And now, everything is back on track.”
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