Vets out in the cold

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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.

Organizations: Canadian Press, Canadian Press.The

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • Lucy
    January 07, 2016 - 13:54

    Outside of the teams and health issues some of these people face, Could some of this homelessness be due to the fact that many military personnel live in base housing for most of their lives? Low rental rates make it attractive while working but it would be hard to start a new mortgage at retirement? I hope something is done to take care of these people? We need to help these people and solve the reasons so it does not continue.

  • Old Guard
    January 07, 2016 - 12:23

    Can the editorial please explain what is a "veteran"? This is crucial to know after all.I was in the Reserve Army for years but did not serve overseas. Am I a veteran?

    • Brad
      January 08, 2016 - 07:22

      Veterans Affairs Canada has it here:

  • Stephen J Ransier
    January 07, 2016 - 11:42

    And to think the CDS did not know about this. Given that this information only came after an access to information request was made, many had to have known about the plight of these veterans. It is a reflection on this nation and needs immediate attention and action to provide assistance to these individuals who represented this nation in often extremely dangerous circumstances. They deserve better!

  • NoNo
    January 07, 2016 - 10:26

    Donald Trump campaigned on doing more for Vets.

  • Rich
    January 07, 2016 - 08:18

    The number is well over 3,000! Then you have veterans like myself who should be homeless but are not because family is taking care of them while they wait years to navigate through and get benefits from Veterans Affairs . I know my own case I am disabled I have 6 months of prescriptions pilling up and my doctor has had enough waiting for VAC so she went to the provincial government to get my drugs covered on compassionate grounds. The system is worse than I ever imagined , I do not doubt that VAC needs to be disbanded and replaced with an organization that helps veterans. - Maybe put all Veterans claims under the Immigration department as it seems they are on the ball with respect to claims , drug coverage etc ...

    • Veteran
      January 12, 2016 - 09:52

      I am a veteran as well and have to say that Veteran Affairs are getting worse, especially since responsibility has been turned over to Medavie Blue cross. There are so many vets in need now that the Ombudsman office has gone from a time frame of a week to respond to complaints to now in my case over 8 months. The system is simply broken and we continue to suffer. In my case is affects my health and the pain is at times unbarable. We cannot even contact Veteran's affairs anymore and have to deal with untrained operators at Medavie Blue Cross. Dentist, doctors, and other caregivers are not going to be dealing with us anymore as there seems to be no way of getting through to veterans.

  • help canadians first
    January 07, 2016 - 07:09

    the liberals seem to put the refugees first. they have been spending more time since the election, with photo-op's and rolling out the red carpet treatment. they seem to find money to help refugees, but nothing for our vets. "ITS A NATIONAL DISGRACE".

  • Fred
    January 07, 2016 - 05:49

    Pretty Boy Trudeau hasn't taken any selfies with homeless vets has he ? He's taken plenty with refugees though. Shameful. Why am I not surprised.

    • tim
      January 07, 2016 - 09:17

      Turdeau is more of a marketing brand than a real leader of adults .

    • Notaliberal
      January 07, 2016 - 09:26

      I was unaware that Trudeau was the one who cut services to the vets. Wow, you conbots are really obsessed with 'selfies.' Is ad hominem attacks all the ammunition you have?

    • james
      January 07, 2016 - 11:00

      Trudeau is just a front man, the fiberal back room boy are running things ( Notaliberal)