Throughout the last two months of 2018, the Royal Canadian Legion Branch No. 2 in Prince Albert kept getting request after request from the Royal Canadian Legion Saskatchewan Command in Regina for more funding.
The need? A program called “Leave the Streets Behind” that helps homeless veterans find shelter and accommodations. Previously, the Prince Albert legion had only offered assistance when they were asked for it, but a meeting in Regina helped give them the drive and determination to do something more.
That goal turned into reality on Feb. 13, when the legion donated $20,000 from their poppy fund to help give “Leave the Streets Behind” a much needed boost.
“The need is so great,” said Poppy and Wreath Committee chair Colin Riese, who made the donation on behalf of the legion at the ceremony in Regina. “I would like to think that in the future, we’ll be able to make a contribution again.”
Riese first heard about the organization’s financial difficulties during a trip to Regina to file some paperwork. While there, he met with the Legion’s provincial service officer, who outlined some of the difficulties.
At that time there were more than 200 veterans asking “Leave the Streets Behind” for assistance, and the financial well was getting dry.
“That bank account was really being taxed (and) was really heavily utilized with 200 veterans,” Riese remembered. “I took that information back to the branch and at one of the executive meetings I put forward a motion (and) we had some discussion.”
That discussion didn’t take long. Riese said the legion executive voted to donated the money “without question.” It wasn’t long before he was back in Regina making the presentation.
Saskatchewan Command offered a hearty thank you to Branch No. 2 on the command Facebook page, but Riese said it’s the people who buy poppies around Remembrance Day who made the donation possible.
“The poppy fund campaign is meant to provide veterans with assistance however they need, and to me it’s a very important campaign,” he explained. “I’m grateful for the community at large who buy a poppy and donate. All their donations are kept in trust and that’s where we’re given the opportunity to give back to the veterans.”
Riese added that they’re likely going to make another such donation next year. Unfortunately, he explained, the need isn’t going away.
“If anything, it’s going to increase,” he said.
“Leave the Streets Behind” is a national program operating in five provinces and three territories, including Saskatchewan. The program’s mission is to help veterans who are homeless or at risk of being homeless by providing immediate financial support while also connecting them with social and community services.