Supporting homeless and at-risk military veterans
Veterans Emergency Transition Services (V.E.T.S. Canada)
September 28, 2012
More than 1,000
Overview:Since early 2011, Veterans Emergency Transition Services (V.E.T.S. Canada), a volunteer-led, registered charity, has been reaching out to homeless and at-risk military veterans across Canada. We are based in the Halifax-Dartmouth area and in the past year and a half our outreach efforts have helped us identify and assist more than 30 homeless veterans in Halifax and throughout Nova Scotia. We have also helped veterans in other Canadian cities using our growing social network of volunteers.
Every week we discover more veterans who have slipped through the cracks, who have not made a successful transition from their military careers to healthy, productive civilian lives. These veterans are living on the street or at-risk of being homeless. They are unemployed and are trying to cope with mental and physical injuries related to their service without adequate health care and other needed community supports.
V.E.T.S. Canada’s goal is to help veterans reintegrate into civilian life. We have a dedicated network of more than 30 volunteers across the country, most of whom are ex-military. We work within the community to identify homeless veterans. When we find them, we quickly re-establish the bond of trust that exists between soldiers. We attempt to move veterans from the streets or from shelters into affordable housing (if available). We work to connect them with needed health care. We help them access the benefits and services available to them through existing government programs such as Veterans Affairs Canada and we support them in finding suitable employment. We stick with these vets every step of the way and do everything within our power to help them re-establish themselves.
Who are homeless or at-risk veterans?
Many, but not all, of the veterans we encounter are male, in their late 30s or early 40s, and have participated in overseas military operations in Bosnia and/or Afghanistan. Most of the veterans we work with have disabilities related to their military service, usually a combination of physical and mental health problems. Many suffer from Operational Stress Injuries (OSIs); predominantly depression, anxiety disorders, as well as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and these mental health issues are often compounded by alcohol or other substance abuse and addiction issues.
How big is the problem?
Although there are no reliable statistics or studies accurately documenting the problem of veteran homelessness in Canada, many estimate the numbers to be in the thousands. This estimate does not take into consideration at-risk, “couch-surfing” veterans who have managed to avoid the street, and if they are factored into the equation, the estimate would be significantly higher. With the heavy peacekeeping load of the 1990’s, and after a long and bloody decade of war in Afghanistan, we fully expect to see an increase in veteran homelessness across Canada in the years to come.
The cost of getting veterans off the street
The first month after making contact with a homeless vet is critical. With adequate funds V.E.T.S. Canada can meet the short-term needs of these individuals. A grant from the AVIVA Community Fund would help ensure we are able to support homeless veterans across Canada.
We propose that funds will be used to cover the short-term costs associated with meeting the emergency needs of homeless vets including:
- short-term emergency/transitional housing;
- housing rental deposits;
- clothing (season-appropriate);
- personal hygiene items and other sundries;
- immediate medical/dental expenses (if not covered by provincial health care); and
- possible relocation to an area closer to a veteran’s family support network.
With these essentials in place, and with the ongoing support of V.E.T.S. Canada volunteers, it is possible for homeless veteran to receive the help they deserve and to reintegrate into society.
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