Roger Powley is building a volunteer network across the Okanagan Valley to help military veterans in crisis.
Powley is one of three volunteers in Kelowna along with one each in Kamloops and Vernon establishes so far to help bring support and awareness to homelessness among veterans.
His hope is to establish a VETS (Veterans Emergency Transition Services) Canada assistance network extending from Salmon Arm to Osoyoos.
An event on Saturday, the third annual Vets Canada Coast to Coast Tour of Duty walk will take place in 21 cities across the country, including Kelowna for the first time, to help further that cause.
Powley, who served in the Canadian army for 27 years, is one of 400 volunteers in 22 Canadian cities volunteering for VETS Canada.
He said their efforts this past year helped one 84-year-old vet of the Korean War who was living out of his car find residence in a seniors’ home, and help ‘clean up’ another 42-year-old man who had served three tours of duty in Afghanistan but was left suffering from mental health and addiction issues.
Powley says the Gospel Mission in Kelowna reports they see anywhere from four to 10 veterans at the homeless shelter each year.
He cited a study commissioned by the federal government in 2016 based on surveys of more than 60 homeless shelters across Canada that more than 2,700 veterans are either homeless or reliant on shelters.
This past year, the agency has received 2,000 requests for help from individuals.
“It’s a major issue in our country but one that is not well advertised. Beyond trying to help our vets, we do this walk and part of our mandate is to raise that level of awareness,” Powley said.
“We are a non political organization and we work with private funding supporters and other agencies to provide help.”
Powley noted the support of Value Village, which provides kitchen, bathroom and other living supplies for homeless vets who are set up in permanent residences after being discovered to be homeless and often without any extended family support.
Powley said the local Legions in both Kelowna and Penticton have been supportive of the local VETS Canada efforts through donations generated from the poppy sale campaign.
For more information on how to volunteer, check out the website www.vetscanada.org.
The Kelowna walk will start at 10 a.m. on Saturday from the tennis courts in City Park and the procession will head down Leon Avenue with the goal to visit four different homeless shelters during the two-hour event.