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“I loved the Navy,” says Richard MacCallum.

Inspired by his grandfather, who served in the Royal Canadian Navy during the Second World War, Richard enlisted in 1971. His service took him around the world, from Scotland to Australia, and all over the Pacific. “I’ve been to Hawaii six times,” he recalls, as well as to New Zealand, Tonga, Fiji, the Philippines and many other countries.

“The camaraderie was a vital part of shipboard life,” Richard remembers. “Everyone shared in the work, everyone had their own important role to play.”

After releasing from service in 1989 as a Petty Officer, Second Class, he settled in Brampton, Ontario, where he worked in the aerospace sector. Two years later, he moved to St. Catharines to help care for his mother. There, he started a home renovation and repair business, which he ran until 2012. In 2016, Richard moved to Ottawa to get in on the home-building boom in the national capital, where he has been ever since.

Soon after he arrived, Veterans organizations approached Richard to help support the Innercity Veterans Outreach and Support (IVOS) program, which is part of the Ottawa Innercity Ministries. Impressed with the program, he agreed to help out, working to place Veterans in housing where they need it, and generally making sure the program runs smoothly. This includes keeping the old church that houses the program in good repair and doing other jobs like tiling the kitchen. “It’s my mission to do what I can to help Veterans,” he says. “I love the program.”

The mutual support and respect he sees at IVOS reminds Richard of the military culture that he so enjoyed. “It’s a distinct culture,” Richard says. “The currency is trust and respect.”

IVOS offers a weekly drop-in for homeless and at-risk Veterans in central Ottawa, where they can come enjoy some food and hot drinks, as well as camaraderie, recreational activities, and access to literature, phones and computers. Twice a week, the Door Outreach program allows Veterans in need to come to the office on Gladstone Avenue for food, clothing and other necessities.

IVOS’ most intense program is its Street Outreach initiative. Every day, teams of IVOS volunteers walk the streets and parks of Ottawa seeking Veterans in need. “We start with a simple question: ‘Have you served?’ Vets understand that question,” Richard explains.

When a Veteran self-identifies, the volunteer teams immediately take action, providing groceries, clothes and a safe place to stay.

“It’s impossible to say how many homeless Veterans there are in Ottawa,” Richard admits. In addition to the homeless, many more are living in substandard conditions.

IVOS has placed many Veterans in safe housing, and Richard is a fixture at the downtown centre.

“I enjoy keeping my fingers in the pie,” he says. “I love helping people, using my God-given talents to do what I do.”

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