Veterans Affairs Canada Roundtable on Homelessness

June 7, 2018
Ottawa, Ontario
Record of Discussion

Background

On June 7, 2018, more than 70 participants representing more than 65 national and regional organizations attended a Roundtable on Homelessness in Ottawa, Ontario hosted by the. Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister of National Defence. The participants were all identified as subject matter experts in the field of homelessness. The Minister, Deputy Minister and Associate Deputy Minister of Veterans Affairs Canada were joined by Adam Vaughn, MP and Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development (Housing and Urban Affairs) and chair of an Advisory Committee on Homelessness

Plenary Session and Breakout Sessions

During the plenary and breakout sessions, participants discussed:

  • What types of services and supports they provide;
  • What are the gaps to fully support the homeless population;
  • What can be done to address these gaps;
  • Financial support and unemployment;
  • Mental and physical health; and
  • Relationships and family;

Discussion Highlights

Community Organizations

  • No one organization or group or level of government can successfully tackle the issue of Veteran homelessness.
  • A community centered approach is needed so that the issue becomes a team effort, not solely riding on Veterans Affairs Canada's shoulders.
  • Veterans Affairs Canada can play a critical role in facilitating partnerships between organizations, and connecting Veterans to a network of community resources.
  • More interaction between Veterans Affairs Canada and community partners is needed to ensure more awareness of supports and resources available for Veterans.
  • Outreach to the homeless Veteran community can be challenging, Veterans Affairs Canada could look to coordinate meetings in homeless shelters and meet Veterans where they are, in their communities.

Veteran Experience

  • There needs to be a common understanding of what a Veteran is in order to identify what services may be available to them. A Veterans ID Card would greatly assist with this identification, and double as a link for Veterans to this community.
  • A Veteran's connection to the military and Veteran community can be very important. In some cases they are more successful in their transition when they are surrounded and supported by other Veterans who share their lived experiences.
  • Veterans can feel hesitant to ask for help as a result of not feeling worthy of the supports made available to them. They can also be distrustful of those offering help, so providing assistance can require multiple attempts.
  • Family members can provide some of the strongest supports, and some of the largest obstacles to a Veterans success; Veterans families should always be considered when providing support.

Transition

  • Support for Veterans homelessness is in part prevention, by ensuring releasing members have all required supports in place prior to leaving the Canadian Armed Forces that will ensure their ability to successfully sustain themselves.
  • Greater integration between Canadian Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Canada is needed in order to best support Veterans in a timely fashion.
  • There needs to be a better understanding of how to navigate Veterans Affairs Canada systems, supports, and services.

Administration

  • Veterans Affairs Canada's questionnaires and application forms can seem daunting and complex. Supports and services should be consolidated in order to simplify processes.
  • Cross-pollination of Veterans Affairs Canada and medical clinics – sharing pertinent information quickly to better serve the needs of the homeless Veteran.
  • Time lines to access benefits are not realistic, and may add to anxiety for a Veteran in crisis situation.
  • Proper case management and case managers working together is crucial.

Education on Services

  • Veterans Affairs Canada would benefit from increased outreach to community organizations to ensure they are aware of benefits and services available to Veterans in Crisis.
  • There needs to be a better understanding of why and when a Veteran becomes homeless – sometimes it can happen many years after release, in order to best prevent homelessness, and to ensure the supports available are able to suit their needs.

Health Care

  • Mental health is an issue but not seen as being more so in the Veteran population; the stigma surrounding mental health issues is also strong in this population. Because of this, it is important to make multiple attempts to provide support.
  • Referrals for mental health professionals are needed. It would be beneficial to have mental health professionals in-house in local agencies and organizations and, mental health supports in shelters and other facilities that deal with homelessness.
  • Doctors would benefit from a better understanding of military culture and what to expect when treating Veterans.

Mapping Excerise

Participants were provided with a map of Canada indicating the locations of Area Offices. They were asked to identify other partner organizations not present during the roundtable in their respective regions. The information has since been compiled and represented on an interactive map, focussing on each individual region which will be hosted on the Veterans Affairs Canada website. VAC has created an online discussion forum for roundtable participants to continue their engagement and collaboration about ending and preventing Veterans homelessness.

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