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.
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.