Alarming number of Aussie veterans left homeless
A much larger number of Australian veterans are homeless than previously estimated, according to new national research.
About 5800 ex-serving men and women are homeless in a 12-month period, a rate significantly higher than for all Australians.
The AHURI Inquiry into Homelessness Amongst Australian Veterans, funded by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, offers the first-ever estimate of veteran homelessness based on primary data and the first accurate baseline to track changes in the rate over time.
The report calls out the critical need for government to commit to further research and service policy reform to address homeless veterans’ needs.
“While international research has shown that veterans are at a greater risk of homelessness in comparison to the general population, the extent of the problem in Australia has not been known until the completion of our research,” says co-author Dr Fiona Hilferty from the University of NSW.
“This has prevented definitive service planning, with veterans not recognised as a priority cohort within national homelessness policy. The findings of our research point to the urgent need for veterans to receive priority attention from policymakers and housing organisations.”
As well as estimating the number of veterans living without a home, the research also examines veterans’ pathways into homelessness.
The ways in which aspects of military service contribute to homelessness are difficult to isolate, Dr Hilferty says.
Ex-serving men and women who are homeless report similar risk factors to the general population, including mental illness, substance abuse and poverty.
“However, our research also identified a number of unique factors that increase the risk of becoming homeless for veterans,” she said. “These risks include relationship breakdown, being medically discharged from the Australian Defence Force, and being unemployed for more than three months following the transition from military service.”
The report also looks at service usage patterns to monitor the efficacy of and opportunities for improvement in service implementation.
It found that while mainstream homelessness services may be able to address the needs of those experiencing short-term or transitional homelessness who seek help, chronically homeless veterans require a specific policy and service response focused around the provision of permanent and supported housing.
The project team also included three veteran community researchers who brought to the team their personal experience in military service and expertise in supporting veterans experiencing homelessness.
Should Australia do more to support its veterans?