London makes Canadian history with list of homeless veterans
There are currently 20 veterans in London experiencing homelessness
A list that identifies veterans experiencing homelessness each time they interact with London's social support system is being recognized as a first in Canada, and a "milestone" for the city.
Built for Zero Canada, part of the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, said London is the first community in the country to have, what it calls, a veteran quality by-name list — which helps veterans get prioritized for housing and other services.
Jonathan Rivard, manager of homeless prevention for the City of London, said the first step to ending homelessness in London is to figure out who is experiencing it.
"Historically, up until a few years ago, we didn't have a very complete picture of what homelessness looked like in London," he said.
Now, Rivard said, London has a pretty clear picture.
"It depends on the month, but we're tracking 20 to 25 people who are identifying as veterans and are experiencing homelessness in London. Some of those people are long term shelter users, some of them are unsheltered, they're sleeping rough, or camping outside."
Next step: get veterans housed
There are 1,361 individuals on London's full by-name list, which isn't veteran-specific.
"We do have a list of priorities, as a community, of who should receive housing and in what order," explained Rivard. Veterans are a priority, as are people who identify as Indigenous, and those facing chronic homelessness.
Right now there are 224 people in London experiencing chronic homelessness, defined as people who have been homeless for six months in the past year.
Rivard said several municipalities across Canada are taking part in Built for Zero Canada's campaign to address veteran and chronic homelessness, and are working to develop their own lists.
In a statement, Marie Morrison, the director for Built for Zero Canada commended the city's hard work and dedication.
"This list is the first essential step in the work to end veteran homelessness, not only in London, but in Canada. Congratulations are in order."
London's next step, according to the campaign, is to reduce the number of people on the veteran quality by-name list by getting them housed.