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, whichever is greater) 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

There are now three communities who have been confirmed in Canada for Functional Zero Veteran Homelessness:

  • London, Ontario. In February 2021, London was announced as 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 2023).
  • St. Thomas-Elgin, Ontario. In April 2023, St. Thomas-Elgin was announced as the second community in Canada to reach Functional Zero Veteran Homelessness. Read about their accomplishment HERE and their Case Study HERE.
  • Fort McMurray, Alberta. In August 2023, Fort McMurray was announced as the third community in Canada to reach Functional Zero Veteran Homelessness. Read about their accomplishments HERE and their Case Study HERE.

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 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). The Veteran Homelessness Program was officially announced in April 2023 (see further information in this CAEH Blog).

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
National organizations

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 charity. 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 experiencing homelessness. Operating since 2010, they operate Drop In Centres in Dartmouth NS where National Headquarters is located, Ottawa ON and Edmonton AB. They also operate a 24/7 Ground Support Line at 1-888-228-3871 providing peer support and financial assistance to attain or retain housing (e.g., one-time rent assistance, utility assistance, groceries, etc.).

RESPECT Campaign

The Respect Campaign is a civilian not-for-profit project that was initiated in 2015. They are headquartered in Montreal Quebec and facilitate a national networking initiative involving forums in more than 20 Canadian cities. This network promotes collaboration among organizations and stakeholders who support the mental health of our men and women in uniformed service. Their mission is to create a network among organizations who support CAF veterans, Emergency Responders, and their families in meeting the array of challenges, such as: transition, mental health, and housing instability, by promoting collaboration that improves the delivery of services.

  • RESPECT Campaign website
  • RESPECT Map website – a searchable directory of Canadian organizations and service providers who support veterans of the Canadian Armed Forces, Royal Canadian Mounted Police, emergency responders, and their families. 

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.

Helmets to Hardhats Canada

Helmets to Hardhats (H2H) Canada is a registered non-profit organization providing opportunities in the unionized construction industry for serving, transitioning and former military members. 

provincial GOVERNMENT Supports

Alberta Military Family Resources

Government of Alberta website with links to information on education, health care and more to help military families and veterans get set up and settled in Alberta. The Government of Alberta also funds a Veterans Service Centre in Edmonton where veterans can find financial, employment, housing and crisis supports. 

New Brunswick – Information for Veterans

Are you looking for basic information about provincial programs and services for veterans and their family? The toll-free NB Veterans Information Line provides such information to assists New Brunswick veterans, their family and caregivers when navigating their way through the various government departments and agencies with the help of a bilingual, customer-service oriented telephone agent. 

Nova Scotia Military Relations – Project Support

In recognition of the important role the military plays in Nova Scotia’s society and economy, the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs offers support to community groups and organizations that work to enhance and support military activities across Nova Scotia.

Ontario Soldiers’ Aid Commission

With funding from the Government of Ontario, the Soldiers’ Aid Commission provides financial assistance to Ontario’s eligible Veterans and their families in financial need up to $2,000 per year to secure and maintain housing, for health related items and supports, and other basic needs and supports. If you know of a Veteran who may be eligible for funding, tell them that they can apply through the Royal Canadian Legion or Veterans Affairs Canada (see information below). Funding provided by the Soldiers’ Aid Commission is exempt as income under both the Ontario Disability Support Program Act and the Ontario Works Act.

Veteran and Veteran Homelessness in Canada Information
General information – Veterans and Military
Veterans and Homelessness
indigenous veterans and homelessness

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. According to the 2021 Census of Population, 5.2% of Veterans are Indigenous, greater than the overall share of population aged 17 and older who are Indigenous at 4.4%.

Women, Non-Binary and 2SLGBTQI+ VETERANS and homelessness

For more than 100 years, women have contributed to Canada’s military heritage. The number of women serving in the military has been increasing over the years and continues to rise. According to the 2021 Census of Population, women make up almost 20% of veterans in Canada and of military serving members, transgender men and women make up .01% (same as general population) and non-binary make up .02% (higher than general population). The Canadian Armed Forces has been found to have sexualized culture hostile to many members—but in particular to those who are women, gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender (2021 Census, The Daily). Work is underway to address these issues. Women Veterans are currently four times more likely to experience homelessness than women who did not serve in the military (COH, 2022).

Training, Tools, and Resources to End Veteran Homelessness

BFZ-C Ending Veteran Homelessness Tools and Resources

  • BFZ-C Ending Veteran Homelessness Community Guide (Sept, 2023) – a 20 page guide with definitions, initial steps, information to support partnering with Veteran service providers, tips for asking the Veteran question, instructions for confirming Veteran status, and more.
  • BFZ-C Veteran & Veteran Homelessness Myths & Facts Sheet (Sept, 2023) – answers to 24 of the most commonly asked questions and myths about Veterans and Veteran homelessness.
  • Veteran Knowledge Exchange and Training:
    • March 26, 2020 – Back In Step: Police and First Responders Helping Homeless Veterans – Recording and PDF
    • April 30, 2020 – Veteran Affairs Canada Overview – Recording
    • 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
    • January 27, 2023 – London Reaching and Sustaining Functional Zero Veteran Homelessness – Recording and PDF

Housing First and Veteran Homelessness

  • How Housing First Cut Veteran Homelessness in Half (2022) – a fact sheet from the US National Low Income Housing Coalition and other partners
  • How Housing First Ends Veteran Homelessness (Blog, NAEH, 2022) – a first hand account
  • Ending Veteran Homelessness through Housing First (A BFZ-C webinar with Canadian Experts, 2021) – Recording and PDF
  • The Canadian Model for Housing and Support for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness – a two-year evaluation project from 2012-2014 to test housing-with-support strategies for addressing homelessness among Canadian Veterans in four Canadian cities (Calgary, London, Toronto and Victoria). 
  • Towards Ending Homelessness for Veterans In Canada – Unpacking the Learning from the Canadian Model for Housing and Support for Veterans Experiencing Homelessness – BFZ-C 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)
Other Resources

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