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23 September 2020
Words Darryl Whitecross
The Salvos are at the front line of a fight against increasing homelessness among veterans of Australia’s defence forces through their Veteran Support Program (VSP) in Queensland.
Johnathon Dyer, the Salvos’ Veteran Support Worker in Queensland, said the program not only worked with the client to find them a home but that help continued once they and their families had a house, to ensure “the right supports” were in place, such as links with medical and social networks.
The program, which has been going for three years, began after a report released by RSL Queensland recommended it go into partnership with a specialist homelessness service to meet the needs of homeless veterans, Johnathon said.
RSL Queensland approached The Salvation Army, which is recognised as one of Australia’s largest homelessness service providers, to create the bond recommended by the report.
The Salvation Army Red Shield Defence Services across the country work with Australian Defence Force personnel while they are still within the services. Programs such as the VSP help when they are discharged.
The Salvos ramped up their commitment on the issue during National Homelessness Week in August, pledging to end veterans’ homelessness.
Livia Carusi, The Salvation Army General Manager of Homelessness Services, said the Salvos were committed to converting into reality their message that no veteran should be homeless.
“We want to focus not only on service provision for those currently in homelessness but also on prevention for those most at risk. Our veterans deserve better,” Livia said. “No veteran should experience homelessness.”
The Salvos believed veterans were among “the most vulnerable populations within Australian society” to experience homelessness, due to the high proportion of mental health issues, such as the strong prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder, relationship breakdowns, and alcohol and other substances abuse.
Johnathon said the Salvos’ support of veterans experiencing homelessness stretched back as far as World War One. He said that, throughout the life of the VSP, the Salvos and RSL Queensland had helped secure housing for about 250 homeless veterans and in the past six months had successfully helped 85 per cent of those looking for support.