OTTAWA — The federal government has — for perhaps the first time — taken a stab at estimating how many of the country’s veterans are homeless, but the report by Employment and Social Development Canada cautions the data is far from complete.
The study, dated March 2015 and released to The Canadian Press under access to information legislation, estimates that 2,250 former soldiers use shelters on regular basis, which represents about 2.7 per cent of the total homeless population that uses temporary lodging.
The figures come from a database which tracks 60 emergency shelters across the country.
Researchers found that veterans who end up homeless tend to be older than non-veterans in the same circumstances and that ex-soldiers are more prone to so-called episodic homelessness — meaning they are individuals with disabling conditions who’ve been on and off the street three or more times in one year.
The average age of homeless veterans is 52, compared with 37 in the general population and many ex-soldiers cite alcoholism, drug addiction and mental health issues as reasons for their circumstances.
The country’s top military commander, Gen. Jonathan Vance, says it’s shocking there would be homelessness among former military and says there will be a determined effort to identify those who need help before they fall through the cracks.