Veterans who sleep on city streets are now on the radar of an advocacy group in Red Deer that is trying to put a roof over their heads.
The Pennies for Homeless Veterans organization is focused on improving the quality of life for Canadian veterans.
In partnership with the Royal Canadian Legion 35 and Parkland Mall, the Pennies for Homeless Veterans committee will hold a Canada Day fundraiser on July 1. Organizers also hope to bring awareness to the hundreds of soldiers who suffer from psychological trauma.
The statistics of homeless veterans are not widely known, said Pennies for Homeless Veterans committee co-founder Bobbi McCoy.
“I know that we have had two homeless veterans in Red Deer,” she said.
“But people have no idea that there are homeless veterans on the streets. It is actually quite sad. We see them on the road and everybody criticizes them but how do we know the person is not a veteran so we want to bring awareness that there is transitional housing and help.”
The first annual event will kick off at 10 a.m. on Canada Day in the far east parking lot of Parkland Mall. The day will feature a ceremony, much like that on Remembrance Day, a parade, musical entertainment and vintage car and motorcycle show and shine, which goes until 4 p.m. McCoy says they expect to have 500 to 1,000 vehicles on display. All proceeds go towards the Pennies for Homeless Veterans project.
“Canada Day is very appropriate because we wouldn’t have it if it weren’t for our veterans who made our country free,” McCoy said.
Bob Crites, 55, joined the armed forces in 1976 and spent five years in the combat arms with the Royal Canadian Regiment. He will lead the parade on his motorcycle, which will have Canadian and regimental flags flying off the end.
“We didn’t know that there were that many veterans who were homeless,” Crites said.
“It was never advertised until all the boys and girls came back from Afghanistan and we realized that there is not a lot of stuff being done for them.
“I think it is a step in the right direction that we are doing something about it. It should have been done a long time ago.”
Vincent Martin, 52, also thinks the Canada Day fundraiser is a great idea. Martin served 10 years in the Canadian Forces, four years in the reserves and six years in what he calls the regular forces.
“I know that there are veterans out there who are homeless and have other issues as well,” he said.
“So anything that we can do to help them out is certainly a welcomed thing.”
As motorcycle enthusiasts, both Crites and Martin were the first to make their way down to the motor vehicle registries on April 12 to get their poppy and maple leaf licence plates. They say it is important to show comradeship.
For more information email McCoy at Bobbi-McCoy@shaw.ca.