News National Report shows extent of homelessness among Australia’s defence force

Report shows extent of homelessness among Australia’s defence force

Ex-serving men and women had different living situations when they first accessed specialist homelessness services. Photo: Getty
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Hundreds of young single mums who have recently served in the Australian Defence Force have ended up facing a different battle: Homelessness.

A new report reveals one in 100 people who left jobs with the ADF had sought help to get a roof over their head, while about 90 ex-service men and women were sleeping rough every year.

About 79 women who had left the military were without a bed when they turned to a support service for help; hundreds of other women – many with children – were on the brink of homelessness.

But while the women were more likely to also need a home for their children, homelessness was more prevalent in former male soldiers.

About 940 men had needed support during the six years researchers looked at the plight of veterans.

Every second man who turned to homelessness services was already sleeping rough.

Data released on Friday shows that of the recruits who joined the Australian military after 2001, there were 109,000 who had retired during the study’s six-year research period in the lead up to 2017.

Of those who had left, 1215 (about 1 per cent) had turned to specialist homelessness services for help.

An alarming 46 per cent of the females who asked for support were single parents, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) report.

They were more likely to be women who had served for less than five years and retired before the age of 25, the report commissioned by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs found.

Women were more likely to arrive at homelessness organisations with one or more children, while men usually came alone, AIHW spokesman Michael Frost said.

“Amongst women, when they used those services, they also disproportionately needed to use associated domestic violence-related services as well,” Mr Frost said.

Meanwhile, 56 per cent of men who accessed homelessness services tended to live alone, compared with 21 per cent of ex-serving women.

Overall, 54 per cent (or 648) were at risk of becoming homeless, while 46 per cent (or 552) already sleeping rough upon accessing support.

Half of the ex-serving men who reached out to support services were homeless, while the other half were at risk of homelessness.

This compares with 29 per cent of ex-serving women who had no home, while the rest were at risk of becoming homeless.

The support received by 56 per cent of ex-serving ADF lasted anywhere between one and 45 days.

“Homelessness can profoundly affect a person’s mental and physical health, their education and employment opportunities, and their ability to participate fully in social and community life,” Mr Frost said.

“Research into homelessness and access to secure housing is an important focus area for understanding the welfare of Australia’s Defence Force veterans.”

Information about homelessness among veterans in Australia was lacking, Mr Frost said.

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