War veterans battle with homelessness in silence
As Australia remembers the war heroes on Anzac Day, Mission Australia warns that too many former Australian defence personnel are experiencing homelessness in silence, with numbers expected to increase following modern conflicts.
Many returned veterans struggle to adjust to post-war life and can suffer prolonged physical impairments and mental illness such as post-traumatic stress disorder. This can lead to difficulty maintaining employment, financial stress, domestic violence, substance abuse and family breakdown; all of which lead to a greater risk of homelessness.
Mission Australia CEO, Catherine Yeomans says war veterans who reach out to Mission Australia services and Mission Australia Housing for support are doing so when their situation reaches crisis point.
It’s a sad reality that many military veterans are physically and emotionally scarred when they return from war zones. When back in Australia, all too often they do not receive or seek the support needed, sometimes for years on end.
“In effect, they are discharged from hospitals, work, homes and even from their own families into homelessness. Devastatingly, these people who have bravely served their country are left to tackle a range of personal concerns as well as mental and physical injuries without a safe place to call home,” said Ms Yeomans.
In November 2016, Veterans' Affairs announced the Federal Government has commissioned research to better understand homelessness and its causes among war veterans, with results to be released by the end of 2017.
Ms Yeomans said the much needed data would reveal the magnitude of the issue and called for more cross- government collaboration, increased social and affordable housing as well as long-term sustainable funding for services to better support returned servicemen and women including community based mental health and drug and alcohol services that are trauma informed.
“While the true extent of the problem isn’t known in terms of statistics, there are too many vets presenting to our services and across the sector after months or even decades suffering pain, distress and discomfort in silence. These people deserve a dignified existence, but too often they are ending up on the streets or in unstable housing situations.
“We need the government to take action to reduce homelessness for our veterans and the broader homeless community. It is time to stop playing politics with homelessness funding and provide the vital supports we know work to prevent homelessness and provide safe and secure housing when homelessness occurs. Those who risked their lives to defend our country deserve more than rhetoric,” said Ms Yeomans.
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