The VHV Foundation
Albert DeLorenzi - Chairman
Margaret Good, CPA, CGA - Treasurer
Glen Aiken - Director
Mike Cochrane - Director
Robert Elliot, OMM, CD - Director
Fred Smith - Founder
VHV Foundation is a Canadian Registered Charity operated by dedicated volunteers.
Charitable Registration# 821826195RR0001
Seek out and find Veterans, serving CAF members and their families in despair due to addiction, mental illness or health challenges, facilitate access and provide referrals to government programs and services that can assist and promote recovery.
Helping those who have sacrificed for Canadians find their road to recovery.
"Helping veterans help themselves"
Families in distress
Veterans and Soldiers with terminal problems
Homeless or in threat Veterans
“Over the last few years, sharing my experience with addiction, homelessness, suicide and PTSD in the soup lines, in the shelters of the streets, with soldiers, veterans and families of veterans has been beneficial for me and for those individuals, there has been a lot of success, and some failure.”
“It keeps me alive with some purpose, peace and joy in my life – there’s not many days when I’m not trying to help a soldier/veteran or family of, in someway, from the shelters to the hospitals to the retirement homes and where soldiers and veterans gather. On the good days you will find me taking in some of the older guys out for lunch, fellowship and laughs”.
“I would also like to thank all the other people from the media to other veterans and citizens that have jumped in with me that we could bring awareness to our veterans on the streets and make a difference in their lives. We are saving lives and helping with food, clothing , shelter, hope, purpose,peace and joy. There is and always will be more work to do. So again thank you.”
“If I had not got the help that I needed I might not even be here today. The objective of this web site is to help other veterans (or their family and friends) find the help they need.”
Founder - Fred Smith
On the front line in Hamilton for veterans in need
Article by Stacey Newman
Veteran Fred Smith has fought many battles in his life, in war zones both figurative and real. When he closes his eyes, he still sees images of dead bodies.
In 1979, at just 24 years of age, Corporal Frederick Smith was recruited out of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment to serve as a United Nations peacekeeper in the Golan Heights, in the disputed territory between Syria and Israel.
The things he saw in the Golan would change his life forever. A survivor of abuse, alcoholism, drug addiction and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Fred has returned to the front line as both advocate and activist for other veterans suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues.
Over the last decade Fred has been in contact with more than 3,000 people—most of them veterans—in dire need of intervention in their lives with his organization Veterans Helping Veterans. Each single day Fred mandates himself to contact at least one new veteran in need. He knows all too well how many veterans of the armed forces and the police services are still out there desperately in need of help, and helping others is what saved Fred’s life.
Today I am a proud veteran of the Canadian Armed Forces.
Fred was raised in a military family in Nova Scotia. Fred’s father was an angry and sick man. He drank and was emotionally and physically abusive with Fred and his mother. Fred’s father was also a soldier.
Fred and his brothers regularly visited the local Cenotaph, the visits marked with pride since their brave uncles were both killed in action in WWII, one in Italy and the other in France. Fred’s mother was a kind and loving woman. His grandparents on his mother’s side were equally loving, and Fred refers to a period in which his family lived in his grandparents’ home in Parrsboro, NS as the happiest time of his entire life.
This happy period ended abruptly with the death of his grandmother. Then his father was sent to Italy, and upon his return he split the family up, taking Fred and three of his siblings away to live in New Brunswick where Fred’s father remarried. Fred had been indoctrinated with the belief that he would never amount to anything.
As he grew into a man, he was burdened by pain and shame; the results of the abuse he’d been subjected to. However, he was also instilled with a heart that was driven to help others, which his brother Rick attributes to the warm, caring influence of their mother. Fred Smith wanted to be a Mountie, then a doctor. He wanted to amount to something. Ultimately he chose to be a soldier like his father, his uncles, and his four brothers. He joined the Army Cadets, did well, and then he joined the 1st Battalion, The Royal Canadian Regiment.
United Nations Assignment
Fred was full of pride and interested in being a good soldier. Serving with the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force1 in the Golan Heights in 1979 through 1980, the time he served in the Middle East would change his life forever. Fred saw things he still won’t talk about today.
He sees dead bodies, unearthed and piled near the Syrian border at Al Quinatra in his dreams. The streets in Syria were especially dangerous at that time.
“I saw people killed. When I was in Damascus, at night, alone on the street, I was like a young child whistling in the dark.”
At 24 years of age Fred refers to seeing lots of bad things. He thinks about the innocent people in war zones, especially children.
The fear he felt while deployed in the Golan intensified with every terrifying experience and like many soldiers, Fred self-medicated using readily available and inexpensive alcohol to salve his fear and his pain.
Medals of excellence
Living Through the Trauma
Fred’s trauma became acute, his superiors determined that Fred should not be anywhere near a war zone. Fred was urgently repatriated to his unit in 1980 and sent home with his medical file to counselling and probation at CFB Gagetown. When he was sent home, he was told he would get help. “There was no help,” says Fred with the stalwart lines of hard experience across his face. There was no help for drinking, no recognition of his mental health issues, and no help for reposting as promised. Counselling and probation meant standing in front of an officer, boots shone up, on a regular basis. The counselling and probation went on for a year, Fred became angrier. He was broken, he was mixed up, and he was drinking. Told again that he was no good, that he wouldn’t be reposted, he was so angry that he told them to get him out of the military.
Within three months of leaving the military at the age of 27, Fred was homeless. He geographically escaped his demons by moving repeatedly across Canada over the course of twenty-five years, never managing to go more than five days without drinking and never managing to maintain relationships or his health. When the alcohol had stopped working; he mitigated the nightmares, the memories, and the trauma with hard drugs. He had a number of marriages, children, and failed relationships. He was in and out of eleven treatment centres over the twenty-five year period. Not once was any mental health issue recognized, only his addiction or alcohol abuse was addressed and not any underlying problems.
Somehow through it all Fred set out to help others. He managed relationships, albeit distant connections, with his children. At one point while in recovery Fred was sponsoring seventeen inmates in two correctional facilities located in Saskatchewan where he lived at the time. His own mental and physical health continued to suffer. Fred lived on the streets of Vancouver, Halifax, Toronto, and then he found himself living in and out of shelters in Oakville and Hamilton. At the Booth Centre men’s shelter in Hamilton, Fred was provided with a safe place to sleep, food to eat, and the kindness of others. While homeless, fighting alcoholism and addiction, and mental illness himself, Fred once again made himself available to other veterans in the same situations he had found himself in.
Tragedy found him a number of times. His brother died, then his father died and Fred attempted suicide. “I tried to kill myself three times, I couldn’t live and I couldn’t die.” The breaking point was in 2006 the day one of his sons committed suicide. Fred gave up, again sure he was going to die but instead he found himself at Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital in Burlington. He was wracked with pain, with the memories of his mistakes, his shame, and the notion that he was a loser, as promised. Fred was seen by a psychiatrist who recognized that Fred was filled with trauma from the military, and from the abuse he had suffered throughout his life. It was the first time the stigma of mental illness was removed, the reality addressed. Fred was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. The psychiatrist told him there was help for him because he was a soldier.
Over the course of the next two years Fred started learning to live his life one day at a time. He sought support at Homewood Health Centre in Guelph where he connected with a team of healthcare professionals. There he started helping other veterans with mental health, alcohol, and addiction issues in a meaningful and effective manner. The support and camaraderie was instant, and in turn Fred had a moment of clarity, as he calls it. A sense of hope, a sense of purpose, and a sense of worth. He made a deal with his God, repeating one simple phrase, over and over. “I’ll help you if you help me.” It was a fleeting moment, a flimsy reed that he grabbed onto. The fear, the shame, and stigma seemed to melt away. Fred felt hope. He knew he would be freed by helping others to find their way in what can be a terrifying world for veterans facing mental health diagnoses, dealing with PTSD, homelessness, addiction and alcohol-related issues.
Veterans Helping Veterans
Lieutenant General C. T. Whitecross
Fred started his organization, Veterans Helping Veterans, with the money he received from his own disability claims. He has kept his promises to himself over the last decade, each day is punctuated by an imperative routine; a routine that includes affirmations, self-checks, readings, appointments or meetings, fitness training, and the requirement that Fred reach out to a new veteran in need. His work is simple, his mandate is to directly connect veterans to resources available to them, and which veterans are largely unaware they’re entitled to. No bureaucracy, no politics, no judgment. If a veteran needs help, he or she need simply contact Fred to get the ball rolling.
How does he find veterans in need? Leg work. Lots and lots of leg work. He spends his days visiting shelters, treatment centres, soup kitchens, attending substance abuse support meetings and walking the streets of Hamilton and other regions too where many suffering veterans are homeless, faced with a myriad of service-related issues, and in need of intervention. Then he speaks to them, about himself. Generously and openly he shares his pain and his experience.
There is help and hope after darkness, he is the proof. He gives them his phone number and they call, sometimes just to talk, other times to be connected with those who can help. One by one, he helps to identify their most immediate need—food, shelter, healthcare—and he starts there. Then he connects them with Veterans Affairs Canada so they may be able to get the help they need and are entitled to as armed forces personnel. Fred doesn’t always know what happens once the people he helps move through the process. But he speaks modestly of those that have contacted him about their progress, whose lives are greatly improved thanks to his help. Local Legions must be a starting point. Fred states that local legions need to empower their members to outreach to other veterans in crisis.
Legions must start holding regular service workshops for members, creating a grassroots outreach program by region. When Fred meets a new veteran, he has that veteran provide their military service number. He then connects the veteran with an Ontario Command Legion and Veterans’ Affairs case worker who can determine his or her needs or disability claims. Fred works closely with veterans of the police services too, and he speaks fondly of the camaraderie that exists between the police and the armed forces. Fred is grateful for the support his work has received from across Canada. “I’ve had support from so many people like Lieutenant-General David Millar, Rick Hansen, Julian Fantino, Pinball Clemens, Ron Maclean, Major Jay Feyko are just some of the people who encourage me to continue the work I am doing.” But, there is much more work to be done.
In 2014 there was a record number of suicides in the Canadian Armed Forces. Fred surmises that many more attempted suicides, mental health and substance abuse problems exist that are not reported amongst veterans. There is still stigma, there is a lack of support, and so much more must be done to help veterans returning to normal life after being deployed. Trained to exist in a war zone, armed forces personnel must return home and leave all that training, and their experiences behind even though those experiences may be life-altering. People are taking notice. “Films like Unbroken and American Sniper, that’s PTSD”, says Fred matter-of-factly. PTSD needs to be treated as quickly as possible. Trauma makes a veteran vulnerable to more trauma and the longer the process, the more difficult the recovery.
Receiving the Liz Hoffmann Citation
Fred says that he doesn’t know what recovery looks like entirely. He is still sensitive to loud noises, to yelling, to smells that are triggers for him. When he is triggered, he knows what he needs to do and he turns to his tools to work through the pain. He is still seeking peace, he needs to keep doing what he is doing, that’s the only hope he’s got. “I don’t suffer anymore, I struggle. Big difference.”
Lt.-Gen. David Millar called Fred a hero. Fred is indeed a heroic and kind man. He has travelled some very dark paths, and he has found some resolution, restoring himself to health by doing the very difficult work that he needed to do in order to make peace with his past and his demons. He is dedicated to his health today, and to the cause which is so dear to his heart. He gives of himself to finding veterans in need, every single day. When he visits the Booth men’s shelter today, he wears his uniform and he’s there to help, to show other veterans and those suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues what it looks like to come out on the other side of things. He is there as a symbol of real hope to others who feel they are alone. They’re not alone, Fred knows what they’re going through, and he prays for the future and for all the veterans that are still suffering one way or another. “I got a call yesterday from a soldier I met. Those are the moments where I’ve made a difference. There’s all kinds of little things now that say I amount to something.”
If you are a veteran of the armed forces or the police service in need, or if you know of someone in need, Fred Smith can be reached directly at - veteranshelpingveterans.ca.
Letter from Lieutenant General L. M. M. Hainse
Veterans Helping Veterans - News
Visiting the studio of artist Dave Sopha - Portraits of Honour, is a ardent reminder of the sacrifice made by many for Canadians. "I felt an over whelming desire to honour each and every one of them while looking into the faces of these men and women, I wanted to say thank you to these people and their families. They deserved at least that."
Last Year Dave provided a display for our 2016 Golf Charity Event that was featured in the main hall. We will be working with Dave again this year to increase awareness of and support for Veterans.
January 11, 2017
This letter is a profession reference for Fred Smith. I have known Fred for 1 year in a professional capacity. Fred often visits the Good Shepherd Venture Centre on behalf on his Helping Veterans work. I find him to be courteous, professional, and respectful to staff, students, volunteers, and clients. Fred displays his heart felt empathy and compassion for veterans in word and action. I always welcome Fred to our program.
Good Shepherd Venture Centre
December 21, 2016
The Transitions to Home (T2H) housing first program is nationally recognized by Employment and Social Development of Canada as a housing first case study program. Both T2H and Halton Housing First are funded as housing first programs under the Homelessness Prevention Supports program of the federal government. The Special Care Unit is one of Canada’s few managed alcohol, addictions treatment programs. Our programs’ successes come from the highly skilled staff working in them. In our work with those clients who are Canadian Veterans, Fred’s supports and services allow us to provide a higher quality and more effective service. Our programs help individuals create a stable home life for themselves, Fred’s peer to peer supports help to re-instill hope for veterans who have been in despair which raises the quality of the services we provide. Hope is an intangible but vital element in helping individuals recover from the despair of homelessness, poor mental health and often addictions.
Director of Housing and Homelessness.
Veterans Affairs Commendation - September 21, 2016
In April, 2001 Her Majesty the Queen approved the design of a special bar to be worn with decorations to be known as the Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation.
The Governor General has issued a Warrant creating this award, and the governing policies call for it to be "...awarded to individuals who have performed commendable service to the Veteran community and /or individuals who represent commendable role models for their fellow Veterans." The Commendation is intended primarily for Veterans, but may be awarded to non-Veterans.
Insignia and Wear
The Commendation consists of a certificate, a lapel pin for civilian wear and a bar for wear with decorations. The design is a gold maple leaf resting on a red poppy, a flower long associated with the sacrifices of war, with the Royal Crown on the top of the pin.
The Minister of Veterans Affairs Commendation is worn below official decorations on its gold bar. It can be worn on a recipient’s blazer, formal wear, etc. on occasions when it is appropriate for medals to be worn. The lapel pin may be worn at any time on civilian dress.
Snow Birds in Formation
A salute to the valuable work performed by Veterans Helping Veterans and founder Fred Smith.
September 1, 2016.
Fred Smith on CHCH TV
Fred Smith appearance on the Morning Live Show, August 24, 2016 promoting the 2nd Annual Charity Golf Tournament for Veterans Helping Veterans at Granite Ridge Golf Course in Milton, Ontario, September 1, 2016
Surviving PTSD — Milton's Fred Smith builds hope from trauma
Smith founded his organization, Veterans Helping Veterans. He funded his work with the money he received from his own disability claims. He has kept his promises to himself over the last decade. Each day is punctuated by an imperative routine that includes an affirmation, self-checks, a support meeting or appointment and fitness training. Smith is also mandated to reach out to at least one veteran every single day. He believes his workflow to be simple; he directly connects veterans to resources available to them, resources he says veterans are largely unaware they’re entitled to — no bureaucracy, very little politics, no judgment.
If a veteran needs help, he or she needs simply to contact Fred to get the ball rolling. How does he find veterans in need? Legwork, lots and lots of legwork.
Smith spends his days visiting shelters, legions, treatment centres and soup kitchens. He walks the streets of Halton and Hamilton where many suffering veterans are homeless, faced with a myriad of service-related issues and in need of intervention. Then he speaks to them, about himself. Generously and honestly he shares his pain and his experience. “They’d know if I was lying and then they’d never trust me.”
So Smith tells them the truth about his struggles. He shows them that there’s help and hope after darkness, because he’s the proof. He gives them his contact information. They call, sometimes just to talk, other times to be connected with immediate help.
At first, Smith helps to identify their most immediate need — food, shelter, healthcare. Then he connects them with Veterans Affairs Canada.
Smith says he doesn’t know what recovery looks like entirely. He’s still sensitive to loud noises, yelling and to smells that are triggers for him. When he’s triggered, he knows what he needs to do and he turns to his tools to work through the pain. He’s still seeking peace. “I don’t suffer anymore, I struggle. Big difference.”
When Smith visits the Victoria Park cenotaph in Milton, he’s usually alone. It’s at the cenotaph where he reflects on his life, pays respect to his uncles, and where he mourns. He prays for the future and for all the veterans who are still suffering one way or another. “I got a call yesterday from a soldier I met. Those are the moments where I’ve made a difference.”
March 1, 2015
Lt.-Gen. David Millar called Fred a hero.
Fred is indeed a heroic and kind man. He has travelled some very dark paths, and he has found some resolution, restoring himself to health by doing the very difficult work that he needed to do in order to make peace with his past and his demons. He is dedicated to his health today, and to the cause which is so dear to his heart. He gives of himself to finding veterans in need, every single day. When he visits the Booth men’s shelter today, he wears his uniform and he’s there to help, to show other veterans and those suffering from mental health and substance abuse issues what it looks like to come out on the other side of things. He is there as a symbol of real hope to others who feel they are alone. They’re not alone, Fred knows what they’re going through, and he prays for the future and for all the veterans that are still suffering one way or another. “I got a call yesterday from a soldier I met. Those are the moments where I’ve made a difference. There’s all kinds of little things now that say I amount to something.”
If you are a veteran of the armed forces or the police service in need, or if you know of someone in need, Fred Smith can be reached directly at. Veteranshelpingveterans.ca
By Stacey Newman, February 9, 2015
Liz Hoffmann Citation - 2013
The Liz Hoffman Memorial Commendation is an annual commendation that serves to recognize Canadian Armed Forces members, civilian employees and family members who go the extra mile and exceed expectations in helping their colleagues resolve a difficult problem or in bringing about positive and lasting change to the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces.
Liz Hoffman was an investigator with the Ombudsman's Office who had a deeply rooted sense of fairness and was a tremendous force for positive change. This commendation allows the Office to recognize those in the Defence community who, like Liz, are dedicated to helping others and making a difference.