Is the Homeless Veteran Problem Exploding?

As I opened my e-mail this morning, there was one from The Canadian Verterans Advocacy.  The e-mail had a story of fellow veterans that end up on the street.  Often this happens many years after the veteran leaves the Canadian Forces.  The problem is equally troubling in the U.S. The story eludes to the fact that once veterans leave the structure of the military, they are often left to their own vices and end up fending for themselves.  Without and extensive support network, they often end up on the street long after they have left the military.

Local veterans groups have taken it upon themselves to find these veterans and others in dire strait and direct them to support networks and programs aimed to improve their lot.

Some of us that have left the military after decades of service, have been fortunate enough that we developed some interests that are separate from the military.   This gives us an opportunity to get on with life and move forward after life in the military.   A good transition from the military.   For some this is not possible.

The military and Veterans Affairs must do a better job of preparing them for life after the military and the story says that this is being done in Canada’s larger centres.   Many veterans don’t settle in these cities though and there must be a system of follow up, along with assistance to complete the red tape required to qualify for government programs.

With the war in Afghanistan drawing to an end, the problem is likely to multiply.   A good prevention effort must be launched to stop Veterans falling through the cracks.

The Canadian Press

Date: Monday Nov. 7, 2011 8:55 AM ET

OTTAWA — Standing a few discreet metres away from those selling Remembrance Day poppies at shopping centres across the country this week will be the ragged, faceless and forlorn pleading with people for their spare change.

Many of them once wore the smart, crisply pressed uniforms of Canada’s military forces and they have become a small army of homeless veterans. That army will undoubtedly grow in size as troops returning from Afghanistan absorb the horrors of a decade of fighting there.

They’re struggling with alcoholism and addictions. They often lack everyday skills like financial planning. And they often don’t know where to turn to put their life back on track.

But homeless veterans also have a natural community of support that is quickly learning more about who they are, how they ended up on the street, and how to help them.

Across the country, small organizations of former soldiers are taking matters into their own hands, actively seeking out their homeless peers and matching them up with shelter, social services and government programs.

“We call ourselves ‘ground support,”‘ said Jim Lowther, who started up the Veterans Emergency Transition Services network in Halifax, which is now being copied in several different provinces. “We stick with them until they get back on their feet. It’s been really successful.”

About the Author

Karl Gotthardt - Politisite Managing Editor Maj. Gotthardt is a Retired Military Officer with 35 years service in the Canadian Armed Forces. He spent most of his time in the Military in Infantry Battalions. Karl took part in training for Afghanistan as an Operator Analyst with the Canadian Maneouvre Training Centre. Karl is a qualified military parachutist and military free fall parachutist. He earned his U.S. Master Jump Wings in Fort Benning, Georgia. Karl enjoys working with horses for the last 24 year. He owns six. He has experience in breeding, training and of course riding.Karl was born in Germany and is fluent in both English and German and he speaks enough French to "get in trouble". Karl has written or writes at NowPublic, All Voices, Tek Journalism and many others.

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