From left to right: Lieutenant General (ret) Yvan Blondin, Daniel Lalongé, beneficiary of Sentinels of the street, Matthew Pearce, President and CEO, Old Brewery Mission, Kasandra Szalipszki, Intervention Counsellor, Old Brewery Mission, Lieutenant-Colonel (ret) Colin Robinson, Chair, Old Brewery Mission Veterans Committee, Jacinthe Corbin, Sentinels of the Street Coordinator, Old Brewery Mission, Georges Ohana, Director of Housing, Urban Health and Research, Philip E. Johnston, Secretary, Old Brewery Mission Board of Directors and Brenda Fewster, MA, MBA, PhD Student, Individualized Program, Concordia University.
The Old Brewery Mission implements first pilot-project in Quebec to provide affordable, permanent housing solutions for ex-soldiers in need
A recent nation-wide study revealed that at least 2,500 veterans in Canada are homeless. In Montreal, veterans account for 6% of the homeless population. Today, thanks to the Old Brewery Mission and its partners, homeless and near-homeless veterans now have a place to turn to. With the support of the Fondation Québécoise des Vétérans and the federal government, the Mission is implementing Quebec’s first pilot-project to provide sustainable housing solutions and psychosocial support services tailored to former soldiers’ needs. The goal: to end chronic homelessness among veterans in Montreal.
This project, named Les sentinelles de rue (Sentinels of the Street), includes:
- 16 rent-subsidized apartments in Montreal dedicated to homeless veterans
- Psychosocial support and visits from health care professionals, social workers and partners, as needed
- Access to adapted physical and mental health care services
Matthew Pearce, President and CEO of the Old Brewery Mission, states that up to 45 ex-servicemen and women knock at the Mission’s door each year. He adds that many of them suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a mental illness often linked to exposure to traumatic events that involve death, the threat of death, or serious injury. “Together with our partners, our goal is to ensure our homeless veterans get the specialized support they need to reintegrate into the community and lead fulfilling lives,” says Pearce. “So far, seven veterans have been successfully housed through this project, but we can—and must—do more.”
Lieutenant General (ret) Yvan Blondin explains that it is our collective duty to stand behind our veterans in need. “I’ve known many confident and experienced servicemen and women throughout my career, but we are not superheroes,” he says. “Sometimes, even the bravest, most resilient people need our help, and that’s why the Fondation Québécoise des Vétérans is partnering with the Mission to provide not only funding, but also much needed access to outpatient services for mental health problems and various rehabilitation programs.”
Major funding is also provided by the Innovation Fund of the federal government’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS), which funds projects that focus on supportive housing as important measures to help people overcome homelessness. The Mission also relies on private property owners in Montreal to provide suitable apartments.
Other partners include:
- VETS Canada (Veterans Emergency Transition Services), a non-profit organization that offers emergency transition services for veterans at-risk or experiencing homelessness.
- Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC), which helps connect homeless veterans to community resources and government assistance programs.
- The Royal Canadian Legion’s Quebec branch, which provides veterans and their families with services including housing assistance, mental health, assistance with VAC and financial support.
- Brenda Fewster, PhD student, Individualized program, Project title: soldier2civilian| soldatÀcivil: Well-Being and Meaning Making of Canadian Military Veterans across the Life Course, Concordia University; a veteran herself.
Mario Gagné, a veteran who experienced homelessness on the streets of Montreal, credits the Old Brewery Mission with saving his life. He wanted to tell his story in order to let other homeless vets know about the Sentinelles de rue program, especially those might be tempted to seek escape in alcohol or drugs. “They should ask for help. The workers at the Old Brewery Mission are very flexible, understanding and compassionate. They determine what each person needs and they do their best to help.”