James W.D. Stewart

James W.D. Stewart

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Veteran homelessness is a growing issue in Canada.  The State of Homelessness in Canada 2016 reports that there are 2,950 veterans staying in shelters, making up 2.2% of annual shelter users.  About 25% of the veteran population in Canada faces difficulties transitioning from military service to civilian life — facing a risk of homelessness, mental illness, and/or addictions.  While veterans make up approximately 2% of the Canadian population, advocates are concerned with the over-representation of veterans within the homeless population.  In Metro Vancouver region's 2014 point-in-time count, 7% of respondents indicated that they'd served in the Forces.  In Toronto, the same percentage was reported in their 2013 Street Needs Assessment.  Alberta's 7 cities — Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, and Wood Buffalo — co-ordinated point-in-time count found that, of those surveyed, 6% had military service.  In the Waterloo region, it was 5%.

/blog/2017/04/27/what-we-know-about-veteran-homelessness-in-canada-and-whats-being-done-to-address-the-issue/

https://forces.army/blog/2017/04/27/what-we-know-about-veteran-homelessness-in-canada-and-whats-being-done-to-address-the-issue/

What We Know About Veteran Homelessness in Canada and What's Being Done to Address the Issue

Count Words — Reading Time
by James Stewart
Published: 
Updated:  N/A
Location:  Greater Sudbury Public Library, 74 Mackenzie St., Sudbury, Ontario, P3C 4X8, Canada
 

 

Veteran homelessness is a growing issue in Canada.  The State of Homelessness in Canada 2016 reports that there are 2,950 veterans staying in shelters, making up 2.2% of annual shelter users.  About 25% of the veteran population in Canada faces difficulties transitioning from military service to civilian life — facing a risk of homelessness, mental illness, and/or addictions.  While veterans make up approximately 2% of the Canadian population, advocates are concerned with the over-representation of veterans within the homeless population.  In Metro Vancouver region's 2014 point-in-time count, 7% of respondents indicated that they'd served in the Forces.  In Toronto, the same percentage was reported in their 2013 Street Needs Assessment.  Alberta's 7 cities — Calgary, Edmonton, Grande Prairie, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Red Deer, and Wood Buffalo — co-ordinated point-in-time count found that, of those surveyed, 6% had military service.  In the Waterloo region, it was 5%.

 

Demographics

In a 2014 study, Forchuk and Richardson found that 92.1% of the veterans they interviewed were men, with an average age of 52 years old.  Of those, almost 10% were Indigenous and 66% had children.  An earlier 2011 study, by Forchuk and Ray, reported that 37% of their research participants were either separated or divorced, 42% had a high school education, and 74% identified as Caucasian.  The study also showed that many participants had experienced chronic homelessness — on average, over 5 years.  For many, there was a significant lag-time between the time that they left the Forces — over 24 years ago — and, when they first experienced homelessness — 9.8 years ago — indicating, a long path into homelessness.

Another study, found that veterans comprised 4.3% of a sample of the adult homeless population with severe mental illness.  But, beyond these demographical criteria, not much else has been researched.  Until further quantitative data is published, no safe assumption can safely be made on the approximately 685,000 active and retired Canadian veterans.

 

Factors at Play

Veterans Affairs Canada highlights the importance of career transition upon returning from service.  Veterans themselves, also identified additional challenges, beyond starting a new career.  Transitioning to civilian life was one of the main factors leading to homelessness — identified in Ray's 2011 study.  One veteran described the transition "like being on Mars and coming back to Earth" and another one shared a similar experience:

I was trying to set-up a business at the time, with no financial presence in the civilian world…  Which, made it hard to get loans…  I wound up, at that time, homeless…  As a military person, living in barracks, I wasn't entirely prepared for what real finances in the real world was like…  All of my expenses came out of my pay cheque…  Boiled down to never having been exposed to the reality of civilian finances…  I was rather coddled in the military.  Big, big difference…  Like, two completely different worlds…

Regardless of the time of their release from military service, many veterans have expressed the need for a structured transitional program — over several months — that can assist them with adapting back to everyday life within their communities.  Supports with personal finances, budgeting, vocational rehabilitation, family counselling, mental health, substance use, housing, and/or paper work are just some of the supportive services that veterans mentioned that they'd like to receive.

This transition can also affect veterans' mental health and substance use.  Studies show the prevalence of addiction and mental illness among veterans, but especially, for those experiencing homelessness.  This could be a contributing factor to their homelessness and/or may have been triggered and/or worsened by the stressful realities of not having a home.  While 11% of veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), many reported using alcohol to deal with their mental health, and some started using while still in the military.

Several key considerations among the veteran population include:

  1. Choice of housing and living arrangement is important.
  2. Collaboration includes an integrated and shared response with both homeless and veteran services.
  3. Homeless veterans have unique needs within the broader homeless population.
  4. Housing first and harm-reduction must be programming philosophies.
  5. Peer-support requires knowledge of the military service and homelessness-related issues.
  6. Permanent, long-term, housing is preferred over transitional housing.
  7. Programs need to be outcome-focused with housing stability as a primary goal.  Secondary goals include diversion from emergency services.
  8. Structure, routine, and leisure are important.

In the United States, the National Alliance to End Homelessness identified additional factors, such as traumatic brain injury, sexual trauma while serving in the military — especially, for female veterans — lack of transferable employment skills, lack of strong social support networks, shortage of affordable housing options, and low living wage jobs.  These factors, combined with PTSD and/or another mental illness and/or addiction puts veterans at a greater risk of homelessness than the general population.

 

What the Federal Governement's Doing

The Government of Canada's Homelessness Partnering Strategy is providing over $700,000,000 over 5 years (2014 – 2019) to prevent and reduce homelessness in Canada.  One of HPS' directives for this period is veteran homelessness, and HPS and Veterans Affairs Canada are working together to co-ordinate the regional and community-level services delivered by both departments.  In addition, HPS is working with emergency shelters and crisis service providers, to help identity homeless veterans and those at imminent risk in order to connect them with veteran-specific services.

Veterans Affairs Canada is planning to open staffed offices in Brandon, Charlottetown, Corner Brook, Kelowna, Prince George, Saskatoon, Surrey, Sydney, Thunder Bay, and Windsor by the spring of 2017.  At these locations, veterans will be able to access information on supportive services, which include:

  • Case management.
  • Emergency funds.
  • Employment.
  • Financial support.
  • Health care and mental health.
  • Peer support.
  • Vocational training and support.

Veterans Affairs Canada is in-the-process of drafting a strategy — to be made public — to address rental subsidies for homeless veterans.  The document doesn't address prevention, but aims to reduce numbers — ensuring that "homelessness is rare, brief, and non-recurring, and no veteran's forced to live on the street".

In addition to these efforts, The State of Homelessness in Canada 2016 calls for a housing first strategy to reduce emergency shelter use among veterans, and urges the federal government to provide:

  1. Expand eligibility of veteran benefits beyond those who can demonstrate a direct-link between military service and their injury and/or illness — including, greater flexibility for local offices to distribute emergency funds.
  2. Housing first funding for veterans who are at-risk of, and/or who are, experiencing homelessness.
  3. New, affordable, housing units — specifically, designed to support veterans and their needs.

Being part of the development of Canada's first National Housing Strategy is a critical step to ensure that it addresses the housing needs of veterans.  With new policy commitments to address homelessness on the horizon, service providers, advocacy groups, and all Canadians have an opportunity to demand from the federal government that no veteran ever experiences homelessness.

 

Resources

  • Canadian Legacy Project:  Currently, working with organizations to develop a unique housing program for veterans in Calgary and provide support services to those in the area.
  • The Royal Canadian Legion:  Over 1,400 branches across Canada, serving veterans and their families, with a number of services — including, housing assistance, mental health, assistance with Veterans Affairs Canada, and/or financial supports.
  • Veterans Affairs Canada:  Their Web site has links to several community resources and government assistance programs for homeless veterans, including information on their offices throughout Canada.
  • VETS Canada:  A non-profit organization, recognized for their services provided across Canada, for veterans at-risk and/or experiencing homelessness.
  • Wounded Warriors Canada:  Supports veterans with health services — including, counseling, rehabilitation, skills-building programs, and networking opportunities.

 
Categories:  Political  
Tags:  MyCAF, News, Opinionated, Self, The Suck

 
Syndicated to:

 
References:

  1. 7 Cities
    by Innominate Referenced: 
  2. Budget 2013
    by Government of Canada Referenced: 
  3. Canadian Legacy Project
    by Armadillo Studios Inc. Referenced: 
  4. Fact Sheet: Veteran Homelessness
    by Innominate Published: 
    Referenced: 
  5. Funding: Homelessness Projects
    by Employment and Social Development Canada Referenced: 
  6. General Statistics
    by Veterans Affairs Canada Referenced: 
  7. National Alliance to End Homelessness
    by Innominate Referenced: 
  8. Transition to Civilian Life
    by Veterans Affairs Canada Referenced: 
  9. Understanding Homelessness and the Strategy
    by Employment and Social Development Canada Referenced: 
  10. VAC Support for Homeless Veterans
    by Veterans Affairs Canada Referenced: 
  11. Veteran Services
    by The Royal Canadian Legion Referenced: 
  12. Veterans Emergency Transition Services
    by Innominate Referenced: 
  13. Wounded Warriors Canada
    by Innominate Referenced: 

 

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Creative Commons Licence :: BY-NC-SA James W.D. Stewart by James Stewart is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.  Based on a work at https://github.com/jwds1978/jwds1978.github.io.