Veteran Homelessness

The information and resources here are intended to support your efforts to end veteran homelessness.

Defining an End to Veteran Homelessness

Built for Zero Canada has aligned its veteran definition with Veteran Affairs Canada. According to Veterans Affairs Canada, a veteran includes any former member of the Canadian Armed Forces along with former members of an Allied Forces (e.g., U.S./U.K veteran), former members of the RCMP, former Reservists, Veteran Civilians, and former Canadian Rangers.

A Veteran experiencing homelessness includes those who do not have stable, permanent, appropriate housing, or the immediate prospect, means and ability of acquiring it (paraphrased from COH and the Government of Canada’s National Housing Strategy).

The ultimate objective is to have absolute zero veterans experiencing homelessness. On the path to get there, Built for Zero Canada supports communities to reach and sustain functional zero on veteran homelessness:

  • Functional Zero Veteran Homelessness: When the number of veterans experiencing homelessness is less than or equal to the number of veterans a community has proven it can house in a month.
  • Further detail: The functional zero threshold is based on the communities six-month average housing rate for veterans. The number of veterans experiencing homelessness must be held at or below this functional zero threshold (or three or less actively homeless veterans) for at least three consecutive months.
  • Example: If your community is housing four veterans a month on average, you must have four or fewer veterans experiencing homelessness at the end of each month, sustained for three consecutive months. In this way, the community has shown that the capacity of the system to house veterans is greater than the demand.

For a further explanation of functional zero for veteran homelessness, see the Functional Zero Key Messages One-Pager or the more detailed Functional Zero Q&A or watch the short video below. To learn more about the steps that Built for Zero Canada takes to confirm functional zero for veteran homelessness see this Functional Zero Veteran Homelessness Confirmation Overview.

Ending Veteran Homelessness Isn’t Just Possible. Its Already Happening!

We believe homelessness is a national emergency requiring urgent and immediate action. The time has come to stop managing veteran homelessness and start ending it. We can create a future where veteran homelessness is never inevitable or a way of life. Communities in both Canada and the US are showing that its possible!

Canada is ending veteran homelessness

In October 2020, London, Ontario became the first community in Canada to reach Functional Zero Veteran Homelessness. Read about their accomplishment HERE and their Case Study HERE. Watch this webinar about what London is learning about sustaining Functional Zero Veteran Homelessness two years in – Recording and PDF (January 2022).

More communities are on their way to ending veteran homelessness. With funding from Veterans Affairs Canada, Built for Zero Canada is working with over 20 participating communities and national partners with the goal to end veteran homelessness in their communities. Read more in this CAEH blog (November 18, 2019). A number of communities are in the home stretch for confirming Functional Zero Veteran Homelessness anticipated in early 2023. See further information and community progress on ending veteran homelessness HERE.

In June 2019, the House of Commons unanimously adopted a motion urging an end to veteran homelessness (Globe and Mail, June 14, 2019). Read more about the motion and the importance of ending veteran homelessness in this CAEH blog (June 5, 2019). The interest in ending veteran homelessness was emphasized again in the December 2019 Throne Speech, that the Government will build on that work by improving mental health care supports, and helping ensure that every homeless veteran has a place to call home. Read more about it in this CAEH blog (December 6, 2019). In their 2021 budget, the government of Canada promised a pilot program aimed at reducing veteran homelessness and in 2022 expanded on that pilot proposal to create a $106.8 million five year program for 2023/24 – 2027/28 for rent supplements and wrap-around supports (CAEH22 presentation). 

US is ending veteran homelessness

In November 2022, the US National Alliance to End Homelessness and its partners announced that despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis, veteran homelessness has been reduced in the US by 11% since 2020. And since 2010, American veteran homelessness has reduced in total by 55.3%. Veteran homelessness has been effectively ended in three states and 83 communities as of October 2022 (see this Veteran Affairs site that provides updates on the number of communities that have ended veteran homelessness according the USICH definition). Read more about the Biden-Harris Administration’s strategies to end Veteran Homelessness (Nov 2021). 

Community Solutions provides updates on the number of communities that have ended veteran homelessness in the US using the more rigorous outcomes-based Built for Zero definition (the same one used by Built for Zero Canada). Further information from Community Solutions:

Key Veteran Service Organizations and their Homelessness Response

Veterans Affairs Canada

Royal Canadian Legion

The Royal Canadian Legion is committed to helping Veterans and their families in need find homes. There are national and provincial programs that offer financial assistance and support for homeless Veterans and those at-risk of homelessness.

VETS Canada

VETS Canada is a national, volunteer driven, nonprofit corporation. As service providers of Veterans Affairs Canada, they provide aid and comfort to Canadian veterans that are in-crisis, are at risk of becoming homeless, or are homeless

RESPECT Campaign

The Respect Campaign is a civilian not-for-profit project that was initiated in January 2018. They are headquartered in Montreal Quebec with Regional Coordinators serving communities in four regions across Canada. The campaign serves to bring awareness to the needs of returning troops and veterans in part by promoting collaboration through networking and knowledge sharing to improve mental health services and reduce homelessness. They have hosted RESPECT Forums in many communities across Canada since 2018.

Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services

Morale and welfare programs, services, and activities for CAF Regular and Reserve Force members, retired and former CAF members, military families, Department of National Defence employees, NPF employees, and RCMP personnel. Military Family Resource Centres operate on CAF bases, each its own not-for-profit organization, managed by a volunteer board of directors, represented by a majority of military family members. They assess local needs, in order to avoid duplication of community services and resources, while determining priorities, providing leadership and the mandated delivery of the national Military Family Services Program.

Soldiers Helping Soldiers

Soldiers Helping Soldiers (SHS) is a volunteer activity, developed through the initiative of serving personnel, which seeks to connect homeless veterans and/or veterans or serving members not yet, but on a trajectory to be, homeless with the services and benefits to which they are entitled. Started in 2018, Soldiers Helping Soldiers volunteer activities began in the National Capital Region, as well as the start up of three Regional offshoots (Montreal, Valcartier and Calgary).

Wounded Warriors Canada

Wounded Warriors Canada supports veterans with health services including counseling, rehabilitation, skills-building programs and networking opportunities.

Information, Tools and Resources to End Veteran Homelessness

See the links below to information, resources and tools to end veterans homelessness. Remember, you can also always search on the Homeless Hub and the Homelessness Learning Hub for further information. Keep checking back here as we will be regularly updating materials and adding further resources.

General information – Veterans and Military
  • Canadian Armed Forces 101 – For Civilians (National Defence) – a manual that is organized as an “on-line course” with eight modules including: 1) Introduction, 2) Department of National Defence, 3) The Canadian Armed Forces, 4) Military Ethos and Ethics, 5) CAF Structures, 6) CAF Careers, 7) Military Life, 8) Conclusion. A Glossary is included at the end as well as the answers to the Exercises that are available at the end of each module.
  • 2021 Census on Veterans (released July 2022) – For the first time in 50 years, the 2021 census included a question on Canadians’ military experience, including veterans.
  • Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran Health Research (CIMVHR)  – provides relevant research and resources for veterans services, policy makers, academics, etc.
Information – Veterans and Homelessness
Information – indigenous Homeless veterans

Canada has a long and complex history of Indigenous participation in the Canadian military. Indigenous veteran homelessness in Canada highlights the cumulative ways in which homelessness, former military service, and Indigenous identity intersect to create unique risk factors.

Veteran Knowledge Exchange and Training
  • Towards Ending Homelessness for Veterans In Canada – Pre-Recorded Mini Webinars
    • An Overview of Research and Recommendations from A Canadian Model for Housing and Support of Veterans Experiencing Homelessness – Recording (25 mins)
    • Housing Stability – Part 1 of 2 – Recording (15 mins)
    • Housing Stability – Part 2 of 2 – Recording (15 mins)
    • Peer Program Practice Guide – Recording (16 mins)
  • March 26, 2020 – Back In Step: Police and First Responders Helping Homeless Veterans – Recording and PDF
  • April 30, 2020 – Veteran Affairs Canada Overview – Recording and PDF
  • November 12, 2020 – Ending Veteran Homelessness – Recording and PDF
  • April 28, 2021 – Getting to a Veteran Quality By-Name List: Tips and Tricks – Recording and PDF
  • November 18, 2021 – Ending Veteran Homelessness through Housing First – Recording and PDF
  • January 27, 2023 – London Reaching and Sustaining Functional Zero Veteran Homelessness – Recording and PDF
Other Resources

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