Why are veterans more likely to end UP on the street?
“A House of Commons committee studying the issue in 2019 was told veterans often end up homeless for many of the same reasons as other Canadians: poverty; a lack of affordable housing; job loss or instability; health problems; and family and marital breakdowns. Yet veterans were more likely to experience problems with alcohol and drugs, the committee heard. The loss of identity and camaraderie that comes with leaving the military and trying to re-enter civilian life were also factors.”
Leaving the military means leaving behind a regulated environment and bonds of trust that have been forged over years. Not everyone makes the transition easily and mental health challenges can arise, which isolate veterans from family and community. The frequent inability to form new, healthy bonds after leaving military service can lead to self-medication, and ultimately addiction, to deal with the symptoms of operational stress injuries and depression. The initiative and self-reliance that are so key to military life can prevent veterans reaching out and seeking help while they spiral down into homelessness.
The total number of homeless veterans in Canada is estimated to be between 3,000 – 5,000
On average, 4.4% of people experiencing homelessness in Canadian cities are veterans. Veterans (both Canadian Armed Forces and Royal Canadian Mounted Police, as defined by Veterans Affairs Canada) are more than twice as likely to experience homelessness compared to the general population.
A Government of Canada funded study, combined with US and UK studies, have given us the following insights:
The transition from military to civilian life is dislocating for many; the abrupt change to the relatively unstructured civilian world from a very highly-structured one can also disrupt focus, trust, and can contribute to destroying families and friendships.
For some, mental health problems, alcoholism and drug addiction contribute to and perpetuate homelessness among veterans.
THE NEED FOR HELP
With the anticipated post-Afghanistan increase in early retirement by younger, battle-experienced soldiers, this situation is expected to deteriorate in the coming years. While veterans’ homelessness is therefore a very real problem, we believe that it can be solved with a determined and coordinated effort.