Veterans look for homeless comrades
Three veterans plan to camp out in a homeless shelter in Halifax, hoping to find other former members of the military who may need help.
Gary Zwicker, Jim Lowther and John Percy will be part of a community radiothon on Wednesday night. They’ll play guitar, sing and serve hot food and coffee.
Lowther expects to run in to several former military members, just like once before when he was serving food.
“I had one guy come up to me and he just started talking,” said Lowther. “I sailed with him on the submarines. He was pointing out five people, ‘Oh, that guy was on the Chicoutimi, that guy was on the Halifax.'”
Veterans Affairs Canada recognizes that homelessness is a problem for former members. Disabled or mentally wounded veterans can end up on the street. Once there, they’re nearly impossible to find or help.
Paul O’Hara has worked with the homeless in Halifax for 30 years.
“I can visualize people in my head who I know were veterans and were involved in the street life. In particular, there was one gentleman. He died on the street. He froze to death,” said O’Hara.
Zwicker was once homeless for three weeks. He says homeless veterans are more likely to open up to him than department officials.
“They tend to get two people: one dressed up in a three-piece suit, the lady dressed in a nice dress and … with a big clipboard,” he said. “They look scary as heck coming through the door.”
Lowther plans to wear his army jacket with wings, along with a cap with a Maple Leaf on it. He knows that other former members will recognize him as a comrade.
“I can tell if they’re a veteran, the way they’re looking at me,” said Lowther. “They’ll come up to me and talk to me first.”
Once he finds them, Lowther hopes to get them the services they need and maybe into a home of their own.