Veterans’ homelessness – Make this your reason to give

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During the 2019 National Defence Workplace Charitable Campaign, we are asking members of the Defence Team to consider supporting charities which 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 percent of annual shelter users. The report also highlighted how approximately 25 percent of the veteran population in Canada face difficulties transitioning from military service to civilian life and an increased risk of homelessness, mental illness, and addictions. While veterans make up approximately 2 percent 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 percent 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 Affairs Canada (VAC) calls attention to the importance of career transition.
  • 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 percent 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 which 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 (HPS) provided over $700 million over 5 years (2014-2019) to prevent and reduce homelessness in Canada. One of HPSdirectives for this period is veteran homelessness, and HPS and Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) are working together to coordinate the regional and community-level services delivered by both departments. HPS 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 which 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.

Show your support for registered Canadian charities addressing the reality of homelessness among our veterans – print our official campaign poster[PDF – 27KB]

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