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Girls make a difference helping homeless veterans

Helping those in need - Fergus Legion president Fred Hiller poses with Amelia Bauman, 4, Charlette Bauman, 9, and Sadie Bauman, 7, of Fergus. Hiller says the girls were instrumental in the success of this year’s Leave the Streets Behind program benefitting homeless veterans.  Photo by Mike Robinson

Girls make a difference helping homeless veterans

FERGUS - A trio of young girls is helping homeless veterans across Ontario.

Organizers of the Leave the Streets Behind program, in its second year at Royal Canadian Legion Fergus Branch 275, are pleased with  donations received from both its members and the community.

“We can’t thank them enough for the tremendous support that they have shown,” Fergus Legion public relations volunteer Marilyn Emmerson  stated in a press release.

She specifically recognized the impressive efforts of three young girls in the community: Charlette Bauman, 9, Sadie Bauman, 7, and Amelia Bauman, 4.

Bonnie Speers-Bauman said she and her daughters first discovered the program through a Legion Facebook posting about a mitten collection.

“Charlette popped up and asked ‘What can I do Mom?’” Bonnie stated, adding the girls used their allowance money to help out.

In early January, Legion officials shipped out three large boxes of items and they currently have ready to ship 32 pairs of warm socks, 43 scarves, two pairs of earmuffs, 47 toques, 31 pairs of hats and mitts, 11 sets of hats and gloves, and two neck warmers. The items will be shipped to Ontario Command in the month of August for use next winter.

Operation: Leave the Streets Behind was started by the Royal Canadian Legion Ontario Command in Aurora and is now in its seventh year of operation.

To date the program has assisted 480 veterans across Ontario, from Ottawa to London and from St. Catharines to North Bay. The intent of the program is to ensure every veteran who is homeless or near homeless finds the help they need.

In Fergus, the initiative was first organized by Ray and Elizabeth Pearse, who have since moved from the Fergus area.

The collection of donated items is only a small part of the overall program.

A 2016 study noted there are 2,250 homeless veterans  and officials say the number is probably low because most ex-soldiers do not use homeless shelters. Researchers from Employment and Social Development Canada found:

- among the homeless, veterans tend to be older than non-veterans (average ages of 52 and 37 respectively); and

- ex-soldiers are more prone to “episodic homelessness,” meaning they are individuals with disabling conditions who have been on and off the street three or more times in one year.

“Interestingly, there is a particularly high rate of episodic homelessness among female veterans,” states the report, which noted 16 per cent of female ex-soldiers reported multiple stints without a roof over their heads, compared with just 6% of non-veteran women.

Many ex-soldiers cite alcoholism (many start drinking in the military or while transitioning to civilian life), drug addiction and mental health issues as reasons for being homeless.

And for many, due to the time span between their release from the Canadian Forces and them becoming homeless, they are not eligible for Canadian Forces benefits.

 

February 17, 2017

 
 

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