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Thread: Thousands of Veterans Homeless

  1. #1

    Default Thousands of Veterans Homeless

    Canada’s homeless veterans, hidden among the hidden need new help from the country they served to get off the streets, a national study has discovered.

    An independent report this week indicates there are at least 2,250 former soldiers in Canada who are now homeless. Although this estimate represents 2.7 percent of the homeless population, it's likely the actual number is much higher. The most common factors contributing to their homelessness were Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, addictions and mental health problems.

    http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016...da-study-finds

    The US reported that there were 49,933 homeless American veterans, or 8.6 percent of their homeless population. Britain estimates that veterans make up 6 percent of the homeless population.

    In contrast, Canada's estimate comes from a survey of only 60 shelters, using data when veterans were included as an identifiable target group for the first time. The number does not include the ones who would rather live on the street than go to a shelter, nor does it comprehend that some veterans don't want to talk about their past. Although the survey is a good starting point, it is clear more needs to be done to get a grasp on the issue.

    According to the study, the average age of homeless veterans was older at 52 years than that of the general homeless population at 37 years of age. There was also a significantly higher rate of homelessness among former female soldiers compared to 6 percent for non military women.

    When the report was released last week, Canadians were shocked that we would have any veteran living in a state of homelessness, while Canada's Chief of Defense acknowledged it's a sad reality. It's also an issue that we could do something about if the will and concern is really there: providing the necessary support programs when they return home and adequate housing. Homes for veterans should not be a dream.

  2. #2

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    It's an admirable goal, but ultimately a very difficult one to achieve. Speaking as someone who served on Active Duty, I think the biggest issue right now is military culture itself. There is a deeply ingrained culture of denying any sort of weakness, especially while engaged in operations of any sort. Couple that with an atmosphere of discipline and drive, combine with the general perception of Mental Health Issues as being a lack of self-control or motivation, and see the incredibly toxic stew that results. At least in the US, there's been a strong push from the top to remove the stigma of seeking and receiving mental health treatment, but it will take time to properly filter down to the lowest ranks. And it still doesn't address the conflicting needs of the unit to have the member present and the member's need to be absent for treatment.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Traemo View Post
    It's an admirable goal, but ultimately a very difficult one to achieve. Speaking as someone who served on Active Duty, I think the biggest issue right now is military culture itself. There is a deeply ingrained culture of denying any sort of weakness, especially while engaged in operations of any sort. Couple that with an atmosphere of discipline and drive, combine with the general perception of Mental Health Issues as being a lack of self-control or motivation, and see the incredibly toxic stew that results. At least in the US, there's been a strong push from the top to remove the stigma of seeking and receiving mental health treatment, but it will take time to properly filter down to the lowest ranks. And it still doesn't address the conflicting needs of the unit to have the member present and the member's need to be absent for treatment.
    Granted, that's a problem for soldiers who are still serving, but Starrunner is speaking of veterans who have mustered out. TBH, I think that the difference between military and civilian culture is so extreme that it might be a good idea to create some sort of halfway-house programme for soldiers, especially those who have served full careers, and offer free lifetime counselling. Basically, the armed forces need to recognise that "untraining" personnel requires at least as much time, effort and money as training them - maybe even more.

    Given that modern armies are becoming ever-smaller and more elite, and equipment ever more expensive, it should not bust the budget to make adequate provision for post-service benefits.
    Last edited by Akastus; 09-Jan-2016 at 22:33.

  4. #4

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    But why target only the veterans? Shouldn't access to good housing and mental health care be available to everyone?

    I can see it from the perspective that emphasizing veterans could get more conservatives on board for increasing welfare benefits. Spotlighting veterans will draw attention to the situation, but there may be a risk of overlooking the real problem, which is not the veterans themselves, but the lopsided economy.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Starrunner View Post
    An independent report this week indicates there are at least 2,250 former soldiers in Canada who are now homeless. Although this estimate represents 2.7 percent of the homeless population, it's likely the actual number is much higher. The most common factors contributing to their homelessness were Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, addictions and mental health problems.

    http://www.nationalobserver.com/2016...da-study-finds

    The US reported that there were 49,933 homeless American veterans, or 8.6 percent of their homeless population. Britain estimates that veterans make up 6 percent of the homeless population.
    Those percentages are much smaller than I would have expected, suggesting perhaps that both countries are doing better by their vets than I would have given them credit for based on media hype.

    I wonder if the noise about that particular segment might be deflecting attention and resources from the problem as a whole, and the causes common to all homeless.

  6. #6

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    From what I've seen in the local interviews, veterans have had a difficult time in shelters because of their military training, citing the lack of structure and regimented routine as contributors to their stress. And although their are a fair number of qualified professional counsellors in the system, none of them really have the military or war theatre experience to give the vets the specific support required. The vets often feel that unless you've been through it, you can't understand it, regardless of qualifications.

    I agree that the issue of homelessness of veterans is one part of the bigger picture of homelessness. However, their needs are so specific and misunderstood by the general population, and like all aspects of homelessness, we need to identify the root causes of how they got there in order to help them appropriately. I just feel that Canada has been a little slow in acknowledging the depth of the issue. Also, it seems unconscionable that our governments would send them off to war torn countries, and leave them to suffer upon their return without any help. The numbers are troubling and not just about housing. There is a significantly high rate of suicide and depression among former soldiers. In Canada, 158 soldiers were killed in the Afghanistan mission. 54 more killed themselves after they returned. http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/...ticle26499878/

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drifter View Post
    But why target only the veterans? Shouldn't access to good housing and mental health care be available to everyone?
    Yes, yes it should. But the therapist that's trained to and able for Suzy Q, isn't necessarily going to understand the problems a veteran faces. As Starrunner pointed out, as we leave service we're leaving behind a world that's very different from the one you know. In a very real sense, if you've never been there or done that you are incapable of understanding. I'm not trying to suggest that people aren't trying to help, or that the help they provide isn't valid; I'm just pointing out that despite what we try to tell ourselves (vets and civs) it's very different cultures and worlds.

  8. #8

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    Quote Originally Posted by Traemo View Post
    Yes, yes it should. But the therapist that's trained to and able for Suzy Q, isn't necessarily going to understand the problems a veteran faces. As Starrunner pointed out, as we leave service we're leaving behind a world that's very different from the one you know. In a very real sense, if you've never been there or done that you are incapable of understanding. I'm not trying to suggest that people aren't trying to help, or that the help they provide isn't valid; I'm just pointing out that despite what we try to tell ourselves (vets and civs) it's very different cultures and worlds.
    All valid points, but I find the situation troubling. I am sickened by the carelessness with which we send in the troops with no realistic idea of the cost of the 'collateral damage' we inflict upon our own people. In the short term, public assistance will have to provide the support for the veterans. If we want a long term solution for veterans, though, it will have to come from defense department recognition that the true cost of veteran welfare needs to be included in the war budget.

    Another thing I find troubling is the idea that military training, itself, contributes to the difficulty vets have in reconnecting with civilian life. I've been somewhat impressed by the level of training evident in the news footage of U.S. troop activities. The training I received, way back when, was more along the lines of ten weeks of constant harassment followed by - "Here's your gun. Go kill some people!" Oo-Rah!

    Ok, there was a little more to it than just that, but it was still pretty pathetic. On the plus side, I managed to escape the training with my independence and self reliance pretty much intact.

    Modern combat training seems to be pretty effective, but is this intense training creating a class of robots dependent on team support? I agree with Akastus that 'untraining' needs to be part of the program.

    Also, disengaging the military/industrial complex from the process of declaring war might help, too. War is a profitable business for them, but welfare isn't. This conflict of interest adds to the dismal situation many vets face, IMHO.

  9. #9

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    Ironic that the training, structure and discipline that straightens out so many young men (and more recently, young women) should come to be a problem for a few of them. While I agree that the transition is stressful, so are all the other life transitions the rest of us face.

    My brother, my son-in-law, a couple of nephews were all adrift and headed for trouble until a stint in the military gave them the direction they were unable to find on their own. Given that, one has to wonder, aside from the obvious exception of life-altering injury, how many would have found themselves homeless with or without the military.

  10. #10

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    Quote Originally Posted by Drifter View Post
    All valid points, but I find the situation troubling. I am sickened by the carelessness with which we send in the troops with no realistic idea of the cost of the 'collateral damage' we inflict upon our own people. In the short term, public assistance will have to provide the support for the veterans. If we want a long term solution for veterans, though, it will have to come from defense department recognition that the true cost of veteran welfare needs to be included in the war budget.

    Another thing I find troubling is the idea that military training, itself, contributes to the difficulty vets have in reconnecting with civilian life. I've been somewhat impressed by the level of training evident in the news footage of U.S. troop activities. The training I received, way back when, was more along the lines of ten weeks of constant harassment followed by - "Here's your gun. Go kill some people!" Oo-Rah!

    Ok, there was a little more to it than just that, but it was still pretty pathetic. On the plus side, I managed to escape the training with my independence and self reliance pretty much intact.

    Modern combat training seems to be pretty effective, but is this intense training creating a class of robots dependent on team support? I agree with Akastus that 'untraining' needs to be part of the program.

    Also, disengaging the military/industrial complex from the process of declaring war might help, too. War is a profitable business for them, but welfare isn't. This conflict of interest adds to the dismal situation many vets face, IMHO.
    I wouldn't consider myself an expert, but I've always gotten the impression that modern armies have placed more and more emphasis on individual initiative and tactical flexibility at the lowest level in recent years, so I'm not sure that turning humans into unthinking robots is necessarily a concern (turning humans into cyborgs on the other hand.....). But however much personal independence a soldier retains, they are still operating within a much more regimented and orderly culture than civilians do, and if they've spent their entire adult life in that culture, the transition is going to be pretty shocking. Following Maxx's line of thought, it's entirely possible that there are a certain percentage of individuals who end up in the military in the first place because, for whatever reason, they just can't cope with civilian life. Perhaps we need to establish some sort of uniformed service for ex-soldiers to provide structure for such people? Or group accommodation run along military lines? Something like the Royal Hospital Chelsea, but for veterans of working age?

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