Friday, July 12, 2024

Mansfield artist’s new song raises awareness for homeless veterans

by Camilla Faragalli
Mar. 22, 2024
Mansfield artist Chris Blackstock has lived, in his words, “an eventful life,” and has captured much of it in the collection of original music he has been writing since 2018. On Mar. 17, that repertoire grew with the release of his new song, The Homeless Veteran.
Blackstock served a 25-year naval career with the Canadian Armed Forces, including time in the Persian Gulf War. He said that a commercial he’d seen recently on television about the rates of homelessness amongst war veterans had reminded him of his own stint with homelessness following his time in the military, and he felt it was an experience that needed to be shared.
“This is really something that needs to be kept in the front of attention in this country,” he told THE EQUITY, explaining that “quite a few” of the people he served with in the military later became homeless.
“These are people that were very good people in the service, very high performers. We were in submarines together, or air traffic controllers together,” he said.
According to the 2018 “Everyone Counts” report from Employment and Social Development Canada, veterans account for approximately 4.4 per cent of homeless individuals across the country.
“People have no idea what veterans go through,” Blackstock said. “I served in submarines, and when I tell people stuff that happened [ . . . ] they don’t know the hardships that we have. When it comes out that we’re done with our service, sometimes, people need help.”
Blackstock explained that adjusting to life as a regular civilian after serving time in the military can be challenging and alienating.
“I was in the military from the time I was 18 until I was 43. I had no idea about things in the civilian world, and I was at a disadvantage because there’s no way of educating you on what you’re to expect. Because every workplace is different, every job is different,” he said.
“And in the Armed Forces, it’s not their job to educate you on how to be a civilian. Their job is to protect the country,” he added.
Blackstock spoke openly of his own experience with homelessness. He said he was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 2009 following his time in the military, and that after a falling-out with a family member around the same time, his mental health suffered a “massive breakdown.”
Blackstock said he had been in the acute mental health inpatient program at the Pembroke Hospital for two weeks when his wife informed him she was leaving him. Upon his release from the hospital, he found himself with no home to return to.
“I ended up staying in Riverside Park in Pembroke in a trailer for six weeks,” he said, adding that while resources for people experiencing homelessness in Pembroke do exist, he “never even thought about seeking help” during that time.
It’s something he alludes to in a line in the song: “The veteran didn’t know how to help himself, honour and pride would be put on the shelf.”
“I thought, okay well I’m in a trailer, I’m really not that bad off . . . but I was bad off,” he said.
“There’s all kinds of stuff that goes on there at night. I was very highly medicated and . . . I could have been robbed, I could have been beat up, anything could have happened to me because the medication I was given knocked me out cold.”
Blackstock said that a volunteering gig at a local fiddle festival allowed him a safer place to park his trailer, and that when the festival ended, he was able to return to his marital home on his own for a short time and get back on his feet. He moved to Mansfield in 2019 after his marriage broke up for good.
“I wanted a quiet, peaceful place to live,” he said.
Blackstock said he hopes his song makes people that hear it more conscious of the homeless veterans they see in passing.
“I never thought of it as activism, I just thought of it as raising awareness,” he said.
Collaborating on the song with Blackstock is Melissa Dawne from Collingwood, Ont.
“Her vocals are awesome, I love her singing,” Blackstock said, adding that he and Dawne plan on writing and recording a song together in the near future.
Blackstock is currently working on several new songs across a variety of themes, including the death of his service dog. He expects to release them in the coming year.
He encourages veterans in need of support to connect with local legion branches, or Veterans Affairs Canada.
The Homeless Veteran can be listened to on most streaming platforms, including Spotify and Apple Music.


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