The rest we forget: Our homeless veteran shame

NEARLY 6000 Veterans are homeless every 12 months at a rate nearly three times higher than the national average, according to a major government report.

A three-year study for the Department of Veterans Affairs released quietly last month showed the highest recorded rate of homelessness in the Veterans community.

But the Government has virtually ignored the figure from the Australian Housing and Urban Infrastructure Report AHURI), pointing instead to a much lower figure in a separate and less substantive report released at the same time.

AHURI researchers conducted three major studies of Veterans homelessness and found 5.3 per cent were homeless in any 12-month period, which was significantly higher than the 1.9 per cent national average.

It also showed that 21.7 per cent of Veterans reported being homeless at some point in their life compared with 13 per cent of the general population.

More than half reported being homeless for less than three months but more than 15 per cent were without proper accommodation for more than six months.

Report co-author Geoff Evans, who started Homes for Heroes in NSW, said the problem was growing as more young veterans who had served in Afghanistan and Iraq and reported having PTSD were leaving Defence.

"By the time Veterans are getting to be homeless their whole life has fallen apart, usually the last straw is family break down, then they're on the street and just a little but further along is suicide," he said.

"It's too late by the time they're getting in to Homes for Heroes, we need to intervene months or years earlier when they first started having problems," he said.

A Department spokesman said the Government was "concerned" about any case of Veteran homelessness but singled out figures from an Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report.

That report found Veteran homelessness was just 1.1 per cent from July 2011 and June 2017.

"The two reports give different insights into the incidence of homelessness in the ex-service community highlighting that there are many factors that can contribute to homelessness, including negative life events such as relationship breakdown, unemployment, and mental health issues," he said.

He added: "While states and territories have primary responsibility for delivering housing and homelessness services, the Australian Government provides more than $6 billion per year for housing and homelessness services for all Australians, including veterans."

Mr Evans said Veterans had access to good support from governments but there were holes in provision of homelessness services.

"It's going to have to be a collaboration of state governments who have responsibility for housing working in with ex-service organisations and the Department of Veterans Affairs to put the wrap services in place," he said.