Soldiers Helping Soldiers is pleased to announce the opening of Top Cover, a veterans only drop in centre. Top Cover is located on the first floor of the Ottawa Freedom Center at 265 Montreal Road in Vanier (Ottawa). The purpose of Top Cover is to provide a safe, comfortable, and welcoming environment for the approximately 409 homeless veterans in Ottawa to gather and connect with other veterans.
Top Cover will be open Thursdays from 1030 – 1800 hrs. Staff will be on site providing information resources for clients. Stop on by for a coffee and a snack and speak with our volunteers.
“Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may remember. Involve me and I will understand” Confucius
Soldiers Helping Soldiers (SHS) is a volunteer activity, developed through the initiative of serving personnel, which seeks to connect homeless veterans and/or veterans or serving members not yet, but on a trajectory to be, homeless with the services and benefits to which they are entitled.
SHS is founded on two distinct but linked ideals:
- volunteers who identify/seek out those in need, and
- link them to services provided by a comprehensive local network of support agencies.
SHS does not fund-raise, nor is it an advocacy group, nor a media opportunity. Serving members devote only time, no money is raised.
The guiding premise is that those in need / at risk are inclined to self-identify to serving members who they encounter volunteering at missions, shelters, food banks, etc., and that those serving-member volunteers in turn facilitate the connection of those in need to the appropriate sources of support for their housing, health or other needs.
Evidence shows that some military personnel can, and do, slip through the cracks in the social support services at all levels, as serving members and after they leave the service. There is no systematic, national action to identify how (and how many) veterans do not make a successful transition from their military careers to healthy, productive civilian lives, nor how many serving members and their families are at risk. While the underlying causes are unique to each individual, they certainly include:
• reticence in self-identifying;
• inability to understand what services/benefits are available and how to access them
• loss of a defined place in a defined structure.
• build a network with local support service providers/representatives (eg; VAC, RCL, MFRC, municipal services, regimental/branch associations, messes, benevolent funds, ..) such that all volunteers are able to provide cogent information on each source of support to those who seek it
• develop, in discussion with the locations, and with local police/emergency services where applicable, Rules of Engagement which balance the intent to elicit self-identification while keeping volunteers safe.
How we accomplish our mission
SHS volunteers attend selected locations in uniform (or otherwise identifiable as serving members) with the intent of facilitating engagement and self-identification from the target audiences. Key individual actions during these volunteer sessions are awareness and willingness to listen. During any engagement, volunteers attempt to assess the individual’s situation, and whether any of the available network services can be brought to bear to assist his/her situation. Where possible the volunteer team at each location should be supported by team members that the vets will be able to readily identify – a Sgt Major, a Padre, and at least one clerk to assist anyone who is ready to fill in forms.
Follow-up action can include
• directing the vets to specific service providers within the local support network,
• facilitating attendance at appointments/interviews,
• assistance in making connection(s) and
• assistance in completing requisite paperwork.
which may be concluded on-site or at a later engagement (bearing in mind the safety and security of the volunteers)
The scope of any follow-up action needs to be guided by locally-developed Rules of Engagement, built to reflect the locally-available services and individual safety. Be prepared to share best practices with other SHS initiatives.