Study reveals extent of homelessness among ex-soldiers

A Townsville MP is pushing for greater awareness of available support, following a new report revealing veteran homelessness is a bigger issue than initially thought.

Over three years, researchers from the Social Policy ­Research Centre at UNSW and the Centre for Traumatic Stress Studies at the University of Adelaide conducted the first-ever official study of its kind, finding about 5800 ex-serving men and women are homeless each year.

Funded by the Department of Veterans' Affairs, the ­Inquiry into Homelessness Amongst Australian Veterans study attempted to uncover the complex causes behind ­former servicemen and women becoming homeless at a rate disproportionate to the civilian population.

While in Townsville yesterday to address homelessness support services, federal Community Housing, Homelessness and Community Services Assistant Minister Luke Howarth directed questions to ­Herbert MP Phillip Thompson, given he was a veteran.

Mr Thompson said there was local support available for anyone in need or sleeping rough.

"We should always be striving to do more," Mr Thompson said.

"And I know in Townsville where we have places like Zac's Place and other accommodations that house homeless ­veterans, or veterans doing it tough.

"I know Zac's Place has some accommodation available now."

The research also examined veterans' pathways into homelessness and found similar risk factors to the general population, including mental illness, substance abuse and poverty. It also identified factors unique to veterans, including relationship breakdowns, being medically discharged from the Australian Defence Force and being unemployed for more than three months following the transition from military service.

The report calls out the critical need for the government to commit to further ­research and service policy ­reform to address homeless veterans' needs.

Mr Thompson said he had already contacted federal Veterans' Affairs Minister Darren Chester about the report findings and was "always working" to address veterans' issues.

"This is something that we've been working on for a long time to try and improve the quality of veterans' lives," he said.

"The way we are going to use 'the report' into the future is 'through' the census.

"We'll understand how many veterans we actually have here locally, and who are living tough, and what we can then put up with the supports around them to make sure that there's meaningful engagement and a meaningful life."

Originally published as Study reveals extent of homelessness among ex-soldiers

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