London-based initiative feeds veterans in need

The Veterans' Community Outreach trailer serving coffee to those on the streets.

A local retired veteran has started a community outreach program to help feed veterans. The goal of this outreach is to meet homeless veterans and help them transition back off the streets. Doug Hiscox, and his wife, Nancy, came up with the idea of meeting up with these individuals and feeding them. Not only does this help them survive, but it also gives them a way to stay connected and engaged within their community.

“If a person doesn’t feel like society cares, they will remain on the sidelines,” said Hiscox. “If they feel that they matter to society, there’s a potential for them to actually leave the street life. A cup of coffee and a treat doesn’t sound like much, but on a cold day, to someone who literally has no home, that’s powerful.”

That is exactly how this started for Hiscox. When he would travel around London in 2017-2018, he would see the people on the streets in need and it pulled at his heartstrings.

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“I just couldn’t stand to see it. So I’d buy a bunch of them coffee. I got in the habit of carrying around a roll of toonies. I’d go in and stand there and click off the toonies as they ordered their coffee in a couple of different locations.”

After seeing this issue, he went out to Calgary and volunteered at a veterans’ food bank called The Veterans Association Food Bank of Calgary. He was inspired by this to create something for his own community, make a difference, and show his respect toward veterans as a former vet himself.

“Nancy and I bought a trailer and enclosed it and modified it. The back of the trailer has a generator and some small appliances to make coffee. We started doing that on Tuesdays and Thursdays during the cold months. We are now just down to Tuesday. The front half is racked out for canned goods.”

Hiscox knows of two locations where veterans have apartment buildings. The plan is to go to these buildings and distribute the canned goods with the help of local Victory Branch Legion member, John Sluggett.

Feeding the veterans is a key part of this outreach. But there are other ways they plan to help as well.

“They start to talk to us and explain why they’re homeless. At that point, we can get them help through the various outreaches and charities in London. But it takes that time on the ground.”

With Fanshawe being a military- connected college, Hiscox believes this is a way to get involved with the community and make a difference.

“There were always those days we looked forward to [as a veteran] because we were giving back to our local community. Take it upon yourselves to come out and volunteer with us. London has the estimated highest population of homeless veterans in Ontario. Come out and interact with these people that are on the street.”

For anyone who would like to donate, the Veterans’ Community Outreach accepts canned goods, non-perishables, clothing like mittens, hats, and socks, personal hygiene items, and hand sanitizers and masks. They do not accept cash donations.