Today's elderly veterans facing affordable housing shortage

Yesterday was June 6, 2013, the 69th anniversary of D-Day, commemorating the landing of Allied troops on the beaches of Normandy in World War Two. The landings, primarily involving British, Canadian, and American troops, featured more than 150,000 soldiers storming the French coast in an attempt to break the German front lines.

And although the attack was ultimately successful, an estimated 12,000 Allied troops died during the bloody assault, and nearly 70 years later, millions of people across North America are remembering the sacrifice made by World War Two veterans of the United States and Canada.

VeteranToday, there are about 110,000 veterans of World War Two in Canada, with an average age of 88 years old. And while these veterans have been treated well by their country since their service, more work needs to be done, according to Andrea Siew, Director, Service Bureau with The Royal Canadian Legion.

“Affordable and independent housing is the single largest issue facing World War Two veterans,” Siew told “Maybe they can't stay in their family home any longer, and many of them need assisted living communities in the areas where their network is,” Siew said.

According to Siew, 10 years ago, the Royal Canadian Legion started building affordable housing apartments for lower-income veterans, and since then, about seven thousand veterans have been housed in the residences, which are located across Canada.

In the United States, as a result of the country’s larger population, there are significantly more veterans of World War Two, at roughly 1.2 million, but many of the issues and challenges facing aging veterans are the same in both countries.

“The challenge for veterans securing permanent and sustainable lasting housing are around affordability, around having appropriate access to healthcare services, appropriate access to other case management and support living skilled and life support assistance while living in that housing,” Tim Cantwell Jr, president of Cantwell-Anderson Inc., a real estate developer based in Pasadena, California, told AARP in a 2012 interview.

According to Cantwell, one pervasive myth surrounding veterans is the level of financial support they receive from the government.
“The pension that people might think that a veteran's likely to be something on the order of 900 a month, or less,” Cantwell said.

“And that shocks most people, because there's a notion that as a veteran, they're being taken care of by the federal government.”

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