An internationally-renowned war hero was among the 1,000 attendees at a London conference aimed to end homelessness this week.
Retired senator and Canadian Armed Forces lieutenant-general Romeo Dallaire was the keynote speaker at the Friday session for the National Conference on Ending Homelessness, held at the London Convention Centre, bringing a message of “solidarity” towards the broader cause of homelessness, as well as a call to action.
“When you’ve got veterans who served and who are hurting, and are left out there in the cold, that only makes them much more vulnerable and difficult to handle,” he said during an exclusive interview with AM980’s Andrew Lawton. “I was speaking (the conference) bringing a solidarity with their work with the general population, and a recognition that veterans are caught up in that too.”
Dallaire, 70, is most known for his work in bringing the Rwandan Genocide to the international forefront in 1994, but has also become an advocate on veterans issues, given his own struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder. Despite being more than 20 years removed from the conflict, Dallaire still deals with symptoms of PTSD, a reality he knows is true of other veterans as well.
Without a roof over one’s head, he said, addressing other issues is next to impossible.
“The fact that there’s still veterans in the street to me (says) something has disconnected,” Dallaire said. “We recognize that when a veteran who was injured has a home or a place that he can call home, where he feels safe or she feels safe, it helps immensely in the rehabilitation and reintegration to society. When they end up in the street, they’ll end up in jail and then the situation even gets worse. Why is that still in existence?”
He acknowledged that some people who qualify as homeless aren’t seeking help, making it all the more important to reach them.
The National Conference on Ending Homelessness also featured Olympic athlete Clara Hughes, spokesperson of the #BellLetsTalk campaign, alongside other speakers connected to the cause.
Dallaire is an officer of the Order of Canada, and served as a senator representing Quebec from 2005 until retiring in 2014.