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Back in Step: Police and First Responders helping Homeless Veterans

Homelessness is a reality for many of Canada’s Veterans. While the extent of homelessness among Veterans may never be fully understood, a 2016 study from Employment and Social Development Canada1 indicates that almost 3000 shelter users reported having served in the military. Whatever the number, it’s too high.

Homelessness among Veterans is a top priority for Veterans Affairs Canada. To raise awareness about the issue of Veterans homelessness among police and first responders, the Department has partnered with CPKN to create a new video. Back in Step: Police and First Responders helping Homeless Veterans is a 9 minute video that will help frontline professionals identify homeless Veterans and former RCMP members and connect them to available supports.

“Veteran homelessness is unacceptable in Canada. Veterans Affairs Canada is developing a Veteran homelessness strategy in collaboration with Government, community and national partners and stakeholders,” says the Honourable Kent Hehr, Minister of Veterans Affairs and Associate Minister for National Defence. “This strategy will identify gaps in existing policies and programs and propose evidence-based initiatives that will focus on the prevention and elimination of Veteran homelessness. The plan is to develop, achieve and sustain a well-coordinated and efficient system that assures homelessness is rare, brief or non-occurring and no Veteran is left to live on the street. ”

Homelessness does not discriminate. People experiencing homelessness come from all walks of life and include a diverse cross-section of men, women, and children, including Veterans and their families. Many Veterans who have been exposed to horrific situations during their service often struggle with the after affects. Negative coping mechanisms, such as drug and alcohol abuse may result in loss of employment, financial distress, and alienation from family and friends. For many, it’s also a path to homelessness.

Police services across the country regularly reach out to homeless individuals they encounter. Officers who spend a large part of their day on patrol, whether by car, bike, or on foot often build rapport with people they see on a regular basis. They also have the opportunity to ask the questions needed to identify those who may have served with the Canadian Armed Forces. In these cases, those individuals should be encouraged to connect with a Veterans Affairs Canada local office for support.

Available in English and French, Back in Step is available at no cost to all police and first responders. For more information or to learn how to register, please visit www.cpkn.ca/course_back_in_step.

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1 Homelessness Partnering Strategy, 2005-2014, Highlights of the National Shelter Study. Employment and Social Development Canada. 2016.