Knowing that more than 116,000 Australians are homeless, is sad enough. But learning that 1 in 20 of them could be Australian Defence Force veterans, is downright upsetting.
It’s one of the findings from The State of Homelessness in Australia’s Cities report, released by the Centre for Social Impact at the University of Western Australia.
Research has been going on since 2010, in which homelessness services, mostly in our inner cities, have interviewed more than 8,000 people who don’t have a home—including those sleeping on the streets.
The study has found that 1 in 20 of the 8,370 homeless people interviewed over the past eight years, were ex-military personnel. That’s a huge five percent. Most of those people (close to 400) were men. About 15 per cent (71 people) were women.
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It’s Time for Action, Says Mission Australia
In light of these findings, Mission Australia is this week taking some of the Anzac Day spotlight, to push for better Government commitment to housing and support services for returned servicemen and women.
CEO of the charity, James Toomey, says they often take calls for help from former defence personnel—“too many”, he said. He explained that mental and social challenges resulting from their service to the nation, leave them vulnerable.
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“Many returned veterans struggle to adjust to post-war life and can suffer physical impairments and mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder,” he said. “It’s a sad reality that this can lead to financial stress, difficulty maintaining employment, domestic violence, substance misuse and family breakdown. All of which leaves them at a greater risk of homelessness.”
There are many complex factors involved, including not only the trauma that veterans have experienced in wartime deployment, but also the shame and embarrassment they feel around reaching out for help when their lives are falling apart.
The study has also shown that veterans are more likely to have physical disability, and to report experienced brain injury or head trauma, than other people experiencing homeless.
“These are people who deserve a dignified life, but too often they find themselves sleeping rough or in unstable accommodation,” Mr Toomey said. “We know that often they leave hospitals, work, accommodation and even their own families and become homeless. These are people who have committed themselves to the service of their country who are now left to tackle a range of personal concerns without a safe place to call home.”
Mr Toomey wants to see better collaboration between government departments to develop long-term solutions. He is calling for funding towards the issue in the next Federal Budget.
“It’s urgent that the government takes action to reduce homelessness for our veterans and the 116,000 men, women and children experiencing homelessness on any given night,” he said.
- State of Homelessness in Australia’s Cities report, 2018
- Homeless in Australia Fact Sheet, 2016, Homelessness Australia website