Homeless veterans left out in the cold

The head researcher of Australia’s most extensive report into homelessness says high numbers of veterans are sleeping rough, with many suffering from serious brain injuries or head trauma.

UWA Social Impact Centre director Paul Flatau co-wrote in collaboration with the Australian Alliance The State of Homelessness in Australia’s City Report which was released earlier this morning.

The report collated seven-years worth of Registry Week data including more than 8000 interviews of individuals experiencing homelessness conducted by specialist care services in Australian cities.

Professor Flatau says there is limited research on veteran issues in Australia compared to the US.

“Neither Census nor administrative data sources have included veterans’ status. However, more than five-per cent of homeless people interviewed indicated they were Australian veterans,” he says.

Approximately 460 individuals surveyed indicated they had worked for the Australian Defence Force.

UWA Centre of Social Impact director Paul Flatau

More than 40 per cent of veterans reported having a serious brain injury or head trauma in their lifetime.

A higher proportion of veterans were identified as being Indigenous (16.5-per cent), compared to the number of Indigenous people in the Defence Force (1.6-per cent).

Hygge Community Life CEO Iain Shields says we are starting to become more aware of the difficulty veterans have in transitioning into civilian life.

“Veterans spend a long time being programmed and trained as soldiers and at the point of either voluntary or involuntary discharge, quite often they describe it as being built up to the top of a hill and on your way out the door is opened and you are falling off the cliff and unable to get back into society,” he says.

Mr Shields says community organisations, rather than central government agencies, may be better equipped to help veterans transition back into civilian life.

“[It] can only be done through a case management system where people are at the heart,” he says.

“It is a human-centred design process where we listen to what veterans need and we try to meet that.”

The 10-year Western Australian strategy to end homelessness will be released on April 13, by the Alliance, to tackle the widespread issue.

The launch will be accompanied by a choir of 1000 singers and musicians roaming the Perth CBD.

Watch some of the panel’s discussion featuring South West Australian Homeless People founder Jonathan Shapiera and Micah CEO Karyn Walsh from the report launch on Thursday morning here.

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