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Veterans search for comrades on Calgary streets

Last Updated Nov 5, 2016 at 2:59 pm MDT

Calgary Field Operations Manager Steve Gilliss of VETS Canada looks for homeless veterans in East Village. Nov. 5, 2016. Reporter Crystal Laderas

A pair of former soldiers spent their Saturday afternoon looking for veterans living on the streets.

Veterans Emergency Transition Services Canada participated in its second Boots on the Ground event, which took place in Calgary and other cities across the country. It’s an event that has volunteers looking for their military comrades who are now homeless.

“It’s always a mixed bag,” said Calgary Field Operations Manager Steve Gilliss. “Some of them are happy to see us, some of them have been promised things before and the groups haven’t delivered. So there’s some apprehension and maybe even some resentment that we’re trying to overcome.”

The team started in East Village and walked to a local shelter. The last time the team held the event, VETS Canada identified 12 former soldiers who were living on the streets of Calgary. Gilliss said the first step is getting them registered with the organization, but added, he gets very involved in their progress.

“I’ve written resumes for them; I’ve applied for jobs for them. We’re working on getting government documents like birth certificates and driver’s licenses reinstated. So it’s very hands on once you get involved and a lot of them just need that ear, so they can vent and know somebody is there for them,” Gilliss said.

He said there is a rotation of veterans coming back from conflict areas, and he unfortunately expects to meet more homeless soldiers every time Boots on the Ground hits the streets.