It’s already 2,250 too many — and that’s probably not a complete number. Most likely, there are more.
That’s the number of Canadian veterans who are numbered among Canada’s homeless, according to documents obtained from the federal government by The Canadian Press.
The March 2015 study, done by Employment and Social Development Canada, says at least that number of former soldiers use homeless shelters on a regular basis — but the agency cautions that its numbers are far from complete, because it doesn’t include homeless individuals who don’t use shelters.
The Canadian Press report starkly details more issues that surfaced when Employment and Social Development examined the veterans’ experiences: “Researchers also found that veterans who end up homeless tend to be older than non-veterans in the same circumstances and that ex-soldiers are more prone to so-called episodic homelessness — meaning they are individuals with disabling conditions who’ve been on and off the street three or more times in one year. ‘Interestingly, there is a particularly high rate of episodic homelessness among female veterans,’ said the report, which noted that 16 per cent of female ex-soldiers reported multiple stints without a roof over their heads, compared with just six per cent of non-veteran women. The average age of homeless veterans is 52, compared with 37 in the general population. Many ex-soldiers cite alcoholism, drug addiction and mental health issues as reasons for their circumstances.”
It’s dry and academic, but that is what research tends to be. Just the facts, but horrendous facts, indeed.
Imagine what they would be like if the numbers had a more human face.
Try to imagine it: spend a portion of your life serving your country, and then find yourself living on the absolute fringes of that country’s society, unable to even find a roof of your own over your head. Debilitated by alcohol or drugs or post-traumatic stress disorder, not even a full part of the society you may have gone to war to protect, with, apparently, little government or military will aimed at helping you. Would you be frustrated and bitter? Yes. Angry? Certainly. And justifiably so.
The federal Liberals have promised change, have promised millions more in support for veterans. The military itself has promised to do more, particularly at the crucial transition point between military and civilian life.
That’s pretty cold comfort for those already out in the cold.
There’s a serious problem here, apparently a serious problem that the federal government has known full well about — and kept to itself — for the close to a year. The Canadian Press had to obtain the report through federal access to information legislation.
Let’s not leave Canada’s veterans out in the cold for another year. It’s time for action.