Tuesday 10 November 2015

Record of the Week: Housing our Veterans

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

The war increased Canadian farm and factory production to unprecedented levels.  By 1942 Canada was supplying its allies with billions of dollars' worth of goods. Toronto received a large influx of people working in munitions plants and other factories incidental to the war. At the same time, there was a shortage of manpower and building materials necessary to supply these workers with new dwellings.

In April 1944, the Mayor of Toronto, Robert Saunders appealed to all Toronto churches for their urgent assistance to ease the housing crisis: 
"If every church in the city, some 400 in number, could be the means of each providing at least one dwelling unit, 400 families could be housed and the citizens who so accommodate such a family would be playing an important part in the war effort and at the same time be recompensed for this effort in the form of rental." (ARCAT SW HC08.03b)
 Soldiers' wives and children were also affected by lack of affordable, available housing. On 16 June 1944, The Evening Telegram published a letter in response to a Housing Registry report that had appeared in the newspaper:
"Of the 2,157 applications for accommodations received, about 1,700 are from wives of men serving overseas...The men who went out to fight our battles left the welfare of their families in our care...Soldiers are only as good as their morale, and what solider can feel contented  with this situation confronting his family?"
When the Allies declared victory in 1945, returning military service personnel were faced with similar overcrowded living conditions. The Citizens Rehabilitation Committee of Toronto, with the support of Archbishop McGuigan, launched a parish campaign to make unused residential space available to over 4,000 veterans and their families:

Second World War series, SW HC08.04b

December 7, 1945
In Toronto there is a very great shortage of housing accommodation. Men are back and more are daily returning from overseas service to find that here in the city from which they enlisted there is no housing accommodations for themselves and their families...
We are approaching the holy season of Christmas and it is not nice to think that  many who spent one to five Christmases away from all the comforts and pleasure of Christmas, are, because of the housing shortage, being forced with their families to live in basements, attics, tourist cabins and shacks. One hesitates to think of what thoughts these men may have in regard to those of us who have lived in the peace and comfort of our own homes. 
What a wonderful Christmas gift it would be if we could help these men to live for a few months in decent surroundings.
Second World War series, SW HC08.04b

The Church in Canada contributed to the war effort through chaplaincy services, assisting with relief efforts abroad and mitigating humanitarian crises at home. 

See how you can continue to honour, support and remember our veterans.

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