VAC support for homeless Veterans

Background

Employment and Social Development Canada tracks emergency shelter use and reports that 150,000 people use emergency shelters every year. The State of Homelessness in Canada: 2013 reported that at least 200,000 Canadians experience homelessness each year and at least 30,000 are homeless on any given night.

How many are Veterans?

There is limited data on the number of homeless Veterans in Canada; however it is considered to be relatively small compared to the overall Veteran population of about 700,000. Other countries that report on the number of homeless Veterans within the overall homeless population show a range from 3% (Australia) to 7% (USA).

The At Home/Chez Soi research project on homelessness and mental health, conducted by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, reported that 99 of 2,298 (4.3%) participants in a five-city study identified themselves as Veterans.

The first research study specifically about Canadian Veterans and homelessness was conducted by The University of Western Ontario. The study found that Canadian Veterans often became homeless one decade after leaving the service. For many participants in this study, the transition from the military to an unstructured civilian life was a particularly vulnerable period. Major issues that led to homelessness over time include addiction issues and mental health problems. Early identification of these issues would provide an opportunity to facilitate interventions that may prevent the downward spiral to homelessness.

Outreach and Partnerships

Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC) has provided information on its programs and services to approximately 200 community organizations that work with the homeless in more than 50 cities across the country, including key information on how to connect with VAC. For example, a downloadable poster with key information on how to connect with VAC is available for display in areas such as emergency homeless shelters, drop-in centres and soup kitchens.

VAC is currently involved in outreach initiatives with Veterans' groups and community organizations to find and assist homeless Veterans:

City Partners
Vancouver    Veterans Memorial Manor, Wounded Warriors Canada and Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada
Calgary Calgary Police Service, The Royal Canadian Legion, and Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada
Edmonton The Royal Canadian Legion and Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada
Regina The Royal Canadian Legion, and Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada
Winnipeg The Royal Canadian Legion, and Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada
Toronto Good Shepherd Ministries, The Royal Canadian Legion and Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada
Ottawa The Royal Canadian Legion, City of Ottawa, Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada and other groups including the Salvation Army and Mission Services
Montréal Operational Stress Injury Social Support (OSISS) Peer Support Coordinators, Wounded Warriors Canada and Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada
Halifax The Royal Canadian Legion, the Integrated Personnel Support Centre (Halifax) and Veterans Emergency Transition Services (VETS) Canada

All VAC offices across Canada have a "point of contact" to work with homeless Veterans and local homelessness organizations and service providers.

VAC-ESDC Pilot Project - In 2012, Employment and Social Development Canada (ESDC) and Veterans Affairs Canada began a two-year pilot project to provide housing, services and support for up to 56 homeless Veterans at Cockrell House in Victoria, Calgary Homeless Foundation in Calgary, Mainstay Housing in Toronto and the Unity Project for Relief of Homelessness in London. ESDC contributed $1.9 million (cash funding) and VAC contributed $1.85 million (in-kind). The results to date are very encouraging as almost all participants have remained housed and have not returned to the streets. This pilot project ended on March 31, 2014; however, the Veterans participating in the project at that time continue to receive support. These Veterans are living in the same housing units and receiving VAC services. A researcher from the University of Western Ontario conducted the project evaluation and the report is scheduled for release in late 2014.

National Conference on Ending Homelessness - In October 2013, Veterans Affairs Canada participated in the first national conference on ending homelessness in Canada. Held in Ottawa, the conference brought together community, private and public sector leaders to address the issue of homelessness in Canada.

Emergency funds

Homeless and other low-income Veterans can access VAC's Emergency Fund to assist them in meeting urgent needs for which there are no other income sources available. VAC can also assist Veterans in crisis to access emergency funds from other sources, such as The Royal Canadian Legion, the Royal Canadian Naval Benevolent Fund and the Canadian Forces Personnel Assistance Fund. To access these funds, please contact us.

Transition

VAC works closely with the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) in 24 Integrated Personnel Support Centres across Canada to help ensure that Veterans have a successful transition to civilian life, and when needed, that they get quick access to VAC programs and services, such as:

Mental health services

VAC's mental health services include:

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