Evidence of meeting #102 for Veterans Affairs in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was funding.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Colleen Yee,  Centralized Operations Services Section, Operations Division, Vancouver Police Department
Alyson Smith  Homeless Outreach Coordinator, Centralized Operations Services Section, Vancouver Police Department
Matthew Pearce  President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Brewery Mission
Karen Ludwig  New Brunswick Southwest, Lib.
Shaun Chen  Scarborough North, Lib.
David Howard  President, Homes for Heroes Foundation
Tim Richter  President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Neil Ellis

Thank you.

Mr. Eyolfson, you have six minutes.

5:10 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness

Tim Richter

May I jump in on that point?

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Neil Ellis

Yes, if you can make it short.

5:10 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness

Tim Richter

Really quickly, I think the first thing that's important is that there is an intent and a commitment to eliminate veteran homelessness and that this becomes a policy of the federal government.

The second is to fund that veteran rent supplement program.

The third is to partner with ESDC, which has that infrastructure in communities, like HUD partners with the VA in the U.S.

The fourth thing is to remember that we end veteran homelessness one person at a time. We have to have an individualized response. We make sweeping assumptions about veterans, but I can tell you that the 23-year-old female homeless veteran is very different from the 35-year-old Afghan veteran with a physical disability and from the 50-year-old peacetime veteran who has no service-related injury that can account for their homelessness.

Those are a few points, really quickly.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Neil Ellis

Thank you.

Mr. Eyolfson, you have six minutes.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Thank you all for coming.

Mr. Richter, you mentioned that in Canada, particularly compared to the States, there are a relatively small number of homeless vets. Do you have an idea of what this number is? How many homeless vets, would you say, are there across Canada?

5:10 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness

Tim Richter

I can tell you that I don't believe any of the numbers at this point, because there are varying challenges with each of them.

My guess would be that there are significantly fewer than 10,000. About 235,000 people experience homelessness in Canada in a year, and there are 35,000 on any given night. Veterans Affairs has identified 2,500. I wouldn't be surprised if it was double that, but I don't think it would be a whole lot more.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

You were saying that with modest additional resources, we could end this in three years. When you say “modest”, again, what's a ballpark financial commitment to do this?

5:10 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness

Tim Richter

That would take a little bit more thinking than I have done up to this moment. In a typical Housing First program, for example, we can take a chronically homeless individual off the streets, put them into permanent housing and provide them with a rent support and some services for about $18,000 per person per year. That's somebody with fairly complex needs for whom we're providing a rent supplement.

You'll have to build some housing. There's just not enough housing infrastructure. There will have to be some supportive housing built as well, but I don't think you'll have to build housing for all homeless veterans.

Again, if I gave you a number, I'm afraid it would be wildly inaccurate, but relatively speaking—relative to the national housing strategy investment—it's a small number.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

All right. Thank you.

Now we talked, again—and we've talked about this on a few panels—about veterans who've had bad experiences. They don't trust Veterans Affairs or they don't trust the government or, as you've said, they just don't want any reminder of their previous service. They'll even avoid vets. Again, we hear different ideas of the incidence. Is this something we see commonly? Is it rare? How big a contributor is that to the issue? Even just proportionately, would it be a significant proportion of the veterans affected?

5:15 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness

Tim Richter

Again, I think it's tough to say. My gut would tell me the proportion of veterans who won't want to make a connection with Veterans Affairs or to the military would be the younger veterans. Matthew might have a better sense of that. I think it's where the experience is fresher and more visceral and more negative.

I also would not be at all surprised to find that female veterans would not want that connection either.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

All right.

Mr. Pearce, would you comment?

5:15 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Brewery Mission

Matthew Pearce

To add, I could say that one of the things we see that is in common with all of the homeless veterans we're serving is they are not connected with Veterans Affairs. Were they, I think they'd be in better circumstances, and they're not. When we talk to them about that and try to suggest some of the programs that are available that might of an advantage, to answer your question directly, it's a very common thing they reject, first off, trying to reach out to VAC. They see VAC as bad news and inaccessible.

November 29th, 2018 / 5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Okay. Thank you.

Something we talked about as well is that there are veterans who don't know they're veterans. They don't have an understanding of what it means to a veteran. Some of them, for some reason, have either assumed or they've heard you have to be in for five years and they were only in for two years. They don't understand that if you wore a uniform and you were honourably discharged, you are a veteran.

Do you find there are a lot of veterans out in the community you encounter who didn't know they were veterans? I know it's very hard to track because you have to identify them, but do you get the experience of finding people who will tell you that for a length of time they didn't realize they were veterans?

Mr. Pearce, I'll start with you.

5:15 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Brewery Mission

Matthew Pearce

Maybe David and Tim could answer too, but I'll start.

There's a misconception generally in speaking about what a veteran is. Sometimes people think if they didn't serve in combat, they're not an ancien combattant, in French, a former combatant, so some of them aren't sure. I think that is an issue. I haven't found it to be so much the duration but more the nature of their service that causes them not to be sure if they qualify—and maybe this is a Quebec thing—simply because the common translation is ancien combattant. They may think that if they didn't have a combat history, it doesn't apply. That's an easy one to overcome through our caseworkers, who can help explain what they're eligible for.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

Doug Eyolfson Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia—Headingley, MB

Do you have anything to add, Mr. Richter or Mr. Howard?

5:15 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness

Tim Richter

I would just say from my own experience that I was in the forces for six years, but I don't consider myself a veteran for the reason that Matthew illustrated. I was a peacetime soldier. If you asked me if I was a veteran, no. That's a cultural thing. However, if you were to ask if I have served in the Canadian Forces, I'd say yes. It really comes down to how you approach it, how you ask the question.

5:15 p.m.

President, Homes for Heroes Foundation

David Howard

I have a similar response in speaking with them. A lot don't consider themselves veterans if they weren't in theatre. I think that's the issue.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Neil Ellis

Mr. Kitchen, you have six minutes.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

Gentlemen, thank you for being here today.

Mr. Pearce, you mentioned, I think, that you roughly have seen per year about 3,000 men and women, and you identified that about 45 of them would be veterans. Is that correct?

5:15 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Brewery Mission

Matthew Pearce

I'm not sure where that number of 3,000 is. Sorry.

5:15 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

The bio that was sent indicated that last year you welcomed close to 3,000 homeless men.

5:15 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Brewery Mission

Matthew Pearce

I see. Yes, that's right.

We did a homeless count, as has become a common practice throughout large and not-so-large Canadian cities. That count revealed that on a given night at the end of March in 2015, there were about 3,000 homeless people who were identified. Of those, 6% declared themselves as veterans. We took that data as true and entered it into the tabulation. What you would find in the report is that 6% of the homeless people were identified as veterans. What we're finding is there were a lot of false declarations, and so I don't think it's 6% in Montreal, and, like Tim, I don't think it's 10,000 across Canada. I think it's very much smaller. I just would endorse Tim's point that ending homelessness is a very manageable objective.

5:20 p.m.

Conservative

Robert Gordon Kitchen Conservative Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

I was a math major in my first year of university. Although I didn't stay in math, my 6% of 3,000 didn't come out to 45, so I was kind of—

5:20 p.m.

President and Chief Executive Officer, Old Brewery Mission

Matthew Pearce

That's 6% all across Montreal. Not all of them come to our doors.