I'll begin the opening remarks and turn to my colleague to complete them.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chair, for the opportunity to speak to you about this very important topic.
As noted, my name is Faith McIntyre, and I'm the Director General of Policy and Research.
Veteran homelessness is unacceptable in Canada, and one homeless veteran is one too many. A picture of homeless veterans is not easily available. According to Employment and Social Development Canada's coordinated point-in-time counts, which were carried out on a specific date in the early spring of 2016, in 31 different locations across the country, veterans accounted for nearly 5% of all homeless Canadians. An additional similar study regarding point in time was conducted in the spring of 2018, and we are still awaiting the results.
Veterans, similar to the general population, become homeless as a result of complex and interrelated issues, for example, health status, personal problems such as family breakdown or violence, employment instability, poverty, lack of affordable housing, and addiction. However, what sets veterans apart from the general homeless population is their transition from military life to a civilian culture and a civilian world.
We find that many veterans have experienced traumatic and dangerous situations as a result of their military service and often struggle with the after-effects of these experiences. As well, we find that homeless veterans tend to become homeless much later in their lives, quite a while after their release.
A 2013 Canadian Forces mental health survey identified that one in six regular Canadian Armed Forces members identified symptoms of at least one of the following mental health conditions in the past 12 months: depression, panic disorder, PTSD, general anxiety disorder, and alcohol abuse or dependence.
The Veterans Affairs Canada life after service studies identified that approximately one-quarter of veterans released from the military since 1998 have experienced a difficult transition.
As the federal department responsible for veterans' well-being, we have the lead to ensure a whole-of-government approach is taken to address veteran homelessness, and this is a top priority for us. The effort must be a collaborative one. It takes the whole community to support the well-being of veterans and their families. The key to making progress will be in continuing to forge strong partnerships with a variety of organizations that are equally as passionate and charged with this issue.
On June 7, 2018, Veterans Affairs Canada hosted a round table on homelessness in Ottawa, which included over 70 participants from 65 national and regional organizations. The participants were all identified as subject matter experts in the area of homelessness, particularly focusing on veterans. As a result of this round table, an interactive map has been developed and is live on our external website. It identifies resources across the country that can provide supports to homeless veterans.
We are working on Coming Home, Veterans Affairs Canada's strategy to prevent and end veteran homelessness. This strategy proposes a number of objectives that will ensure that Canada's homeless veterans receive the support they need to achieve housing stability and well-being, and assist in reducing the likelihood of veterans from ever being homeless.
Veterans Affairs Canada, along with the Canadian Armed Forces and other government and community partners, are working closely to ensure that finding homeless veterans becomes easier. Our proposed homelessness approach is broken down into four themes: lead and engage, by improving collaboration and leadership; find, by improving outreach and identification; assist, by improving mechanisms to assist homeless veterans; and prevent, through optimizing veteran well-being.
Several initiatives are already under way. For example, the return of the veteran's service card was recently announced. This will allow veterans to more easily be identified and to feel a greater sense of community.
In addition, we have developed a new homeless veteran poster, which will be distributed to over 2,000 areas within Canada.
We are also partnering on improving the military-to-civilian transition mechanism to ensure a successful transition to civilian life by bridging members releasing from the Canadian Armed Forces to the support they require.
In budget 2017, Veterans Affairs Canada established the veterans emergency fund, along with the veteran and family well-being fund.
The veterans emergency fund provides emergency financial support to veterans, their families and their survivors whose well-being is at risk due to an urgent and unexpected situation. More than 450 veterans have already benefited from this program.
As announced earlier this month, Veterans Affairs Canada has chosen 21 organizations out of 155 applicants to the veteran and family well-being fund, awarding a total of $3 million.
Of the 21 organizations selected for the fund, three have specifically identified their projects to assist homeless veterans.
The three organizations are Veterans Emergency Transition Services Canada, or VETS Canada, the Respect Campaign and the Old Brewery Mission. Other organizations among the 21 are indirectly involved but will still take positive steps to support homeless veterans.
We are excited to work with these great organizations to improve the state of veteran homelessness in Canada.
I will now ask my colleague Robert Tomljenovic, who has joined you by teleconference as indicated by the chair, to speak to you about what is being done in the area offices.