Men and women in uniform of the Nechako region, along with thousands of others across the province, are reminded this season that they have a home away from home in Vancouver when travelling for medical care.
On May 20, paramedics and firefighters of the area gathered at the district’s fire hall for the Tour of Honour’s first-ever stop in Vanderhoof.
Organized by the Honour House Society, which provides support and accommodations to all members of emergency services seeking medical treatment in Vancouver, the tour kicked off in Victoria on April 28 and looks to raise awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and the mental health injuries that first-responders have a higher risk of developing.
David Scandrett, a Vancouver volunteer for the veteran support group Operational Stress Injury Support, presented on the Honour House at the event in Vanderhoof.
Scandrett, who retired from over 30 years of service in Canadian Forces, is a user of the Honour House, where veterans and their spouses meet twice a month for peer support.
“It’s not a hotel but a home,” he said. “So that veterans and first responders can rest without financial stress.”
Opened at the end of 2010, the house provides 10 furnished, wheelchair accessible apartments in an heritage building in New Westminster — with handmade quilts and laundry services on site.
Scandrett urged members of the fire department in particular to spread the word.
“Fire fighters tend to not ask for help and are used to helping others,” he said. “Tell your friends and take advantage of it.”
For the past two years, BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) staff — about 7,500 across the province — each contribute $20 of their salary to support the non-profit organization.
“With so much staff across B.C., where 4,500 paramedics are part-time, the facility meets the needs of our people,” said Colin Clyne, chief of Vanderhoof’s BCAS unit. “Vancouver is the main referral Centre for medical services.
“It speaks to looking after our membership at a different level.”
Current and retired members and immediate families of the Canadian military, police, fire fighters, paramedics, corrections officers, sheriffs, coast guard, search and rescue, border guards, and conservation officers are eligible to use the facility.
“Suffering from any form of serious illness or critical incident is a very stressful event in anyone’s life,” said Al DeGenova, president of Honour House Society. “Consider a person whose day-to-day job involves some of the most tense and stressful situations imaginable and then include this kind of personal event for them or a member of their family.
“Providing a free, safe, comfortable and relaxing home away from home for some of our bravest Canadians is the very least that we can do.”
Vanderhoof is one of 38 communities that the tour visits over 10 weeks this season.