Serve Your Country, Then Come Home to Poverty

The Veterans Association Food Bank offers aid to those who are too proud to ask for help

Bob Cotton says he doesn’t want to politicize his job. He is not going to blame any political party or level of government for what has happened to many of the veterans he sees on a regular basis.

He’s the manager of Veterans Association Food Bank (VAFB), which has branches in Edmonton and Calgary. The association assists over 1,060 veterans in the two major Alberta cities, and about 160 are receiving food hampers.

The fact that the VAFB even exists shows that many veterans, after they return home, are falling through the cracks.

But, why?

“PTSD is the biggest problem,” says Cotton. “These are anxieties that preclude you from searching out the sources [for help].”

Statistics Canada research shows that about two per cent of Canada’s homeless population is made up of vets.

As well, Cotton says that vets are uncomfortable when it comes to accessing the Edmonton Food Bank, because of pride and a sense of duty.

“When it comes to going to a civilian food bank, as a veteran, if there was a family standing behind me, I would step aside and move out of the line,” says Cotton. “That’s because I am too proud. To even be able to go there and start that process? I’d rather suffer.”

But coming to the Veterans Association’s new Edmonton headquarters, at 18504 111 Ave. NW, is easier for someone who has served.

“The good thing about the Veterans Association is that we’re all the same, we’re all veterans, we’ve all been there,” says Cotton. The scenarios may be slightly different but we’ve all been there and done that. We can relate to each other.”

The facility is more than a food bank; veterans can go there to get help to fill out the many forms that needs to go to Ottawa; they can begin the processes when it comes to mental-health treatments; or they can go there just for people to talk to who have had similar life experiences.

Cotton says that in the last six months, the Veterans Association has also helped find shelter for eight homeless veterans. Hotels were found for them, and they remained in them till permanent accommodations could be secured.

The VAFB is always looking for donations of food and personal hygiene items, and is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Pet food is also in need, and financial assistance of any kind is always welcome.