The Current

Thousands of veterans in Canada amongst the hidden homeless

Too many of this nation's mighty have fallen right through the cracks of civilian life. After serving their country, so many find themselves crouched on the street. New numbers show that at least two thousand military veterans are homeless today.
Claude Lord at times gets emotional, when he thinks back to his brief military career in Montreal. Lord, a Canadian military veteran, lives in a shipping container in a poor neighbourhood of Montreal. (Paul Chiasson/Canadian Press)

For years, there's been a growing awareness that too many Canadian vets end up homeless.

Claude Lord in the darkness of his shipping container where he lives in Montreal. Lord, a military vet lives in a shipping container in a poor neighbourhood of Montreal. (The Canadian Press/Paul Chiasson)

But numbers have been hard to come by.  This week, however, numbers from a federal government study into the problem became public.

They suggest that 2,250 Canadian vets regularly rely on homeless shelters. And those who work with homeless vets say that number is almost certainly quite low.

  • Angus Stanfield is one of the founding volunteers of Cockrell House, a shelter specifically for homeless veterans in Colwood, B.C. a suburb of Victoria. 
  • Cheryl Forchuk is a distinguished Professor in nursing and psychiatry at Western University in London, Ontario. She has worked on two studies about homeless veterans in Canada which will be published soon.
  • Sean Bruyea was an Airforce intelligence officer for 14 years. He is now an advocate for veterans' rights in Ottawa. He is writing a thesis at the University of Ottawa on Canada's obligations to veteran soldiers.

We requested an interview with Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr. He was not available today.

In 2010, the CBC's Yvonne Gall brought us the story of the Cockrell House and introduced us to Luke Carmichael.

Here is Yvonne Gall's documentary:

Cockrell House is a transition house for veterans who are so psychologically and/or physically damaged that they've been unable to return to civilian life. The CBC's Yvonne Gall has made a documentary about Cockrell House called, "No Fixed Address."

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This segment was produced by The Current's Ines Colabrese and Leif Zapf-Gilje.