Tackling veteran homelessness


Make this your reason to give.

During the 2019 National Defence Workplace Charitable Campaign, consider supporting charities that support homeless veterans.

Veterans’ homelessness is a growing issue in Canada. According to a 2014 report published in the Canadian Journal of Community Mental Health, there were 2,950 veterans staying in shelters, making up 2.2 per cent of annual shelter users.

The report also highlighted how approximately 25 per cent of the veteran population in Canada face difficulties transitioning from military service to civilian life, and have an increased risk of homelessness, mental illness, and addictions.

While veterans make up approximately two per cent of the Canadian population, advocates are concerned with the overrepresentation of veterans in the homeless population.

Factors at play

No one organization or group or level of government can hope to tackle veterans’ homelessness on their own. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to, and perpetuate this issue.

The study noted that veterans comprised 4.3 per cent of a sample of the adult homeless population with severe mental illness.

Veterans identified additional transition challenges beyond starting a new career. One veteran described the transition “like being on Mars and coming back to earth”.

Veterans can be hesitant to ask for help, not feeling worthy of the supports made available to them or being distrustful of those offering help.

VAC questionnaires and application forms can seem daunting and complex.

The study showed a higher incidence of addiction and mental illness among veterans, but especially for those experiencing homelessness. While 11 per cent of veterans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), many reported using alcohol to deal with their mental health, and some started using while in the military.

Some of the problems that put veterans at risk of homelessness were not present when they began their military services, but instead developed over time.

To be effective, peer-support requires knowledge of the military service and homelessness-related issues.

Government Initiatives

The Government of Canada’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy provided over $700 million over five years (2014-2019) to prevent and reduce homelessness in Canada. One of strategy’s directives for this period is veteran homelessness, and the government’s Homelessness Partnering Strategy and Veterans Affairs Canada are working together to coordinate the regional and community-level services delivered by both departments. The strategy also worked with emergency shelters and crisis service providers in an effort to identity homeless veterans and those at imminent risk in order to connect them with veteran-specific services.

The State of Homelessness in Canada 2016 called for a Housing First strategy focused on reducing emergency shelter use among veterans, urging the federal government to provide:

  • Funding for veterans who are at risk of, or who are experiencing homelessness.
  • New affordable housing units designed to support veterans and their needs.
  • Expanded eligibility of veteran benefits beyond those who can demonstrate a direct link between military service and their injury or illness, including greater flexibility for local offices to distribute emergency funds.

Lastly, the Government of Canada released the results of the Let’s Talk Housing consultations. Being part of the development of the country’s first National Housing Strategy is a critical step to ensure that it addresses the housing needs of veterans.

Support from the Defence Team

The National Defence Workplace Charitable Campaign (NDWCC) strives to make a difference in the lives of those in need. In 2018, this translated into roughly $3,500,000 in donated funds. These funds aided those impacted by local tornadoes and floods, and supported military-related charities, as well as a multitude of other worthy causes.

Our NDWCC campaign provides Defence Team members with a direct line to donate to over 86,500 charities, including numerous organizations with strong ties to Canada’s military. There are also charities that support homeless veterans.

Support these charities in their work to tackle the growing issue of veterans’ homelessness, to understand why it happens, how to prevent it, and how to ensure support is available and suits the needs of former CAF members.

Become a part of the solution.

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  1. Dean Hopkins says:

    I have an initiative for assisting homeless Canadian veterans back into society, Im looking at running a pilot program in Calgary Alberta, then franchise the project concept canada wide in every major city across canada, however I have not been able to obtain the right contact in government to discuss my mission in regards to launching this initiative. If anyone knows the right department in government or individual in their address book, pass them my email address so they can make contact with me thank you. Dean Hopkins. Onedirectioncalgary@gmail.com. Thank you for your assistance. Dated 26 Nov 2019.

  2. Phil says:

    I was disappointed that no mention of Cockrell House was made in this story. Cockrell House is a local homeless/transition shelter located in Colwood. It has been in existence since 2009 and continues to operate with no government assistance, despite the best efforts of the volunteers who run the facility.

    Without donations from the Legion Foundation and the general public, the doors would close. Homeless and couch surfing Veterans are right here. Please help by donating to Cockrell House at https://www.legionbcyukon.ca/legion-foundation/cockrell-house

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