Australia’s Disgrace: Almost 6,000 Australian Veterans Experience Homelessness Each Year

A new study into the prevalence of homelessness in ex-serving men and women calls for urgent policy attention and improved service responses. (Image: via Screenshot /YouTube)

A new study into the prevalence of homelessness in ex-serving men and women calls for urgent policy attention and improved services.  A much larger number of Australian veterans are homeless than previously estimated, according to new national research published in the Australian Journal of Social Issues.

About 5,800 ex-serving men and women are homeless in a 12-month period, a rate significantly higher than for all Australians. The AHURI Inquiry into Homelessness Amongst Australian Veterans, funded by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, offers the first-ever estimate of veteran homelessness based on primary data and the first accurate baseline to track changes in the rate over time. The information is vital for service planning.

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The inquiry, conducted by researchers from the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) at UNSW Sydney and the Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies at the University of Adelaide from 2016-2019, was commissioned in response to concern about the limited evidence available to inform policy development.

The report calls out the critical need for the government to commit to further research and service policy reform to address homeless veterans’ needs. Co-author of the study Dr. Fiona Hilferty from UNSW’s SPRC said:

As well as estimating the number of veterans living without a home, the research also examines veterans’ pathways into homelessness. The ways in which aspects of military service contribute to homelessness are difficult to isolate, Dr. Hilferty says.

Ex-serving men and women who are homeless report similar risk factors to the general population, including mental illness, substance abuse, and poverty. Dr. Hilferty added:

The report also looks at service usage patterns to monitor the efficacy of and opportunities for improvement in service implementation.

It found that while mainstream homelessness services may be able to address the needs of those experiencing short-term or transitional homelessness who seek help, chronically homeless veterans require a specific policy and service response focused around the provision of permanent and supported housing.

Another co-author of the paper, Professor Ilan Katz from SPRC, said:

The project team also included three veteran community researchers who brought to the team their personal experience in military service and expertise in supporting veterans experiencing homelessness. The research, with its prevalence estimate, will allow for targeted service planning to occur in Australia. Prof. Katz said:

Further research and a genuine commitment to social services reform are required if we hope to address the issues contributing to veteran homelessness. Dr. Hilferty said:

The research discussed in this article provides the basis for both and highlights the necessity of prompt action.

Provided by: University of New South Wales [Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.]

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