Aussie veterans left sleeping rough
19 August 2019 at 5:29 pm
Australian defence veterans using homelessness services are twice as likely to be sleeping rough compared to non-veterans seeking specialist support, new data shows.
A report from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) found more than 1,200 ex-serving Australian Defence Force (ADF) members used specialist homelessness services between 2011 and 2017.
Almost one in five of these veterans (18 per cent) were sleeping rough – double the rate (9 per cent) of non-veterans using homelessness services.
Female veterans were 1.6 times more likely to seek support than male veterans. Almost half (46 per cent) of these women were single parents, compared to eight per cent of ex-serving men.
AIHW spokesperson Michael Frost said the figures showed that male and female veterans experienced homelessness differently.
“Half of ex-serving men were homeless when they started using services and the other half were at risk of becoming homeless, whereas 29 per cent of ex-serving women were homeless, and 71 per cent were at risk of becoming homeless,” Frost said.
Overall, one in 100 people who left jobs with the defence force have approached homelessness services for help, with 90 veterans sleeping rough each year.
Homelessness Australia chair Jenny Smith told Pro Bono News these statistics were a sad reflection on the nation.
“No one in a country as wealthy as Australia should face life without a home, but it is very sad that people who have served their country are being let down when they most need support,” Smith said.
“Homelessness occurs at the intersection of poverty, trauma and our affordable housing crisis.
“Those leaving our defence forces who need support from our community for a fresh start, are being let down, because governments are still not investing sufficiently in social housing, at federal, state and territory levels.”
Smith said with crisis accommodation in Australia at capacity, a dangerous bottleneck had been formed with vulnerable people having nowhere to move into.
“We need a national plan to end homelessness and significantly more investment in social housing by all levels of government if we want to end this crisis across the country,” she said.
Shadow homelessness minister Jason Clare said the report showed Australia needed to do more to help its veterans.
“We know that homelessness is up by almost 14 per cent across Australia, but many organisations like Homelessness NSW tell me that one in 10 people sleeping rough are veterans,” Clare said.
“The RSL has also reported a 25 per cent increase in those seeking housing support.”
Minister for Veterans and Defence Personnel Darren Chester said the government’s priority following the report was ensuring ex-service people and their families were being looked after through the Departments of Defence and Veterans’ Affairs.
He said the government had more than $11 billion this financial year to provide a wide range of support services for veterans, including free mental health care, a network of Veteran Wellbeing Centres and Veteran Payments.
Veterans seeking homelessness support can contact the Open Arms free counselling service on 1800 011 046.