“Boots on the Ground” in Edmonton
VETS Canada volunteers conducted a “Boots on the Ground” walk in Edmonton on Saturday, 12 March 2016. It was a beautiful day with 14 volunteers altogether and we received some great media coverage. More importantly we were able to connect with a lot of people, both shelter staff and people living on the streets, 12-15 of those people identified as Veterans so our volunteers will continue to visit those same areas to maintain contact and build some trust. It was a very emotional and eye opening day; there is a very large homeless population in Edmonton.
The day started with a visit from a lovely lady named Beverley. As we were getting ready to head out and holding a bit of an in-brief, Beverley showed up. She had heard a radio interview with Debbie Lowther that morning and said she was touched by the story, the issue of Veteran homelessness was near to her heart and she felt compelled to help in some way. Her health wouldn’t allow her to come on the walk so instead she brought us two rolls of loonies to give out to the people on the streets that we encountered so they could get a coffee.
A few of the volunteers were privileged to meet one gentleman in particular who was battling cancer while living on the street. He talked about the nightmares he has of his time serving. He pulled out a piece of paper where he had written about one nightmare in particular and he read it out loud. When we asked him if there was anything we could do for him right away, he held up the piece of paper and said “you can help me burn this.” One of the volunteers had a lighter and we stood around him while he burned the paper – his nightmare. It was very emotional for all of us. He told us he knew he needed help but was too proud to ask, we explained that he wasn’t asking us for help, we were offering it to him and that it would be an honour and a privilege to help him. He said he would think about it but our volunteers will definitely be keeping in touch with him, encouraging him to accept our help. He was a lovely man who deserves so much more from life.
After the walk we received a call from one of the shelters saying they had two Veterans there who saw us during the walk and were interested in our services so we’ll be following up on that.
Overall, a good day! A huge thank you to everyone who came with us!
Started the day off talking with Mia from Global’s 16×9 who is doing a story on homeless Veterans, we’re happy to be a part of it
Meeting the volunteers
Meeting the volunteers
Volunteers on the street
A Military family member
The belongings of one of the Veterans we spoke to
We were able to connect with a Veteran that we have been assisting for a few months, working with his shelter worker to move him into housing
Talking to people on the streets (Photo credit – David Bloom)