VETS Canada receives federal funding to enhance its work with homeless veterans

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WATCH: A veterans' emergency transition service that's been operating since 2010 has received funding to help homeless veterans. Jesse Thomas has more – Jul 4, 2019

A funding announcement in Dartmouth for a local veterans support agency shows the value of organizations like VETS Canada and how the services they offer can help individuals who are struggling in a time of crisis.

VETS, or the Veteran Emergency Transition Services Canada, was founded in 2010 by veteran Jim Lowther, after he saw a friend of whom he served with in crisis and living on the streets.

The organization helps veterans across the country who are either homeless or struggling to keep a roof over their head, and now they’re getting a funding boost.

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“Since this funding began on October 1st, 2018 we have assisted 1,058 individual veterans and so what this means Minister (Lawrence MacAulay, Minister of Veterans Affairs) is we need more money,” said VETS Canada co-founder Debbie Lowther.

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VETS Canada opened its drop-in support centre in Dartmouth earlier this year, and receive more than 300 calls or drop-ins from veterans a month.

The organization has also received $840,000 to assist its “Beacon of Hope” program. which provides support for veterans who are living on the street or on the verge of homelessness, which they say is a widespread problem across the country.

“We’re busy, we’re busy right across the country from Newfoundland to British Columbia,” said Jim Lowther, VETS Canada founder and CEO.

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“Veterans who are in crisis, they need to grasp onto something, and working closely with the department (of Veteran Affairs) we are able to work closely with those veterans that are in crisis and we know that the department can’t do it alone,” he added.

Minister of Veteran Affairs Lawrence MacAulay was in Dartmouth to speak about the federal funding, which is part of the Veteran and Family Well-Being fund.

The fund has so far awarded $3 million dollars to support organizations like VETS Canada this year alone.

MacAulay stressed governments can’t do the work alone, and rely on innovative projects like VETS Canada to deliver front-line support to veterans that encourages and enhances their well-being.

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“Previously in Veterans Affairs there wasn’t a great understanding of PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) if we even dealt with it at that time and now we understand that these people are not well and we understand that they need help,” said MacAulay. “When you see what they see defending our country in many places, it’s not that easy to adjust to a normal life.”

Debbie Lowther is the co-founder of VETS and said the funding support allows them to get creative with their support measures, and it’s different with each veteran they work with.

“We work with the veteran to find out what the issues actually is and we get to the root of the problem,” Lowther said.

“What we can do is there are no limits to and that’s kind of the beauty of our organization.  We aren’t bound by the strict regulations that a government department would be bound by.”

VETS Canada seeks to receive permanent federal funding in the future.

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