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It is estimated that over 3,000 veterans sleep rough across Australia every night. “Homes for Heroes” provides safe and secure accommodation, as well as rehabilitation services, to returned veterans and their families if they are homeless. This is the only dedicated shelter for veterans and their families, the comradery and support in the shelter helps with the road to recovery.
These young veterans come from a variety of backgrounds, but all have had trouble assimilating back into society after their service to the nation. Physical and mental injuries are prevalent, as sadly also are relationship break-ups due to the veterans inability to cope with day-to-day life.
In addition to permanent residents, the program, periodically provide accommodation to families and veterans on a short stay basis.
The program is a comprehensive rehabilitation service. “Homes for Heroes” have taken the ‘housing first’ approach advocated by Mission Australia, and woven through many ‘wraparound’ programs and services. Every resident is required to give back to the program, for instance, by doing volunteer work, mentoring others, or engaging in education, training, and rehabilitation opportunities.
Lieutenant Geoff Evans, who oversees the program and is himself an Afghanistan war veteran, said “3,000 homeless is a sad figure, the reality is no one knows what’s going on. Everyone in this country sort of knows what happened in the Vietnam generation but people don’t realise that my generation of soldiers are going down exactly the same road.”
While there were 55,000 Vietnam veterans, Geoff points out there are over 70,000 young veterans from the Afghanistan and Iraq conflicts.
“Unfortunately children will talk about my generation the way we talked about Vietnam vets,” he said.
Captain Peter Mullaly who served in Iraq and was homeless himself, says the peer to peer support developed within homes for heroes is crucial.
“The feelings of isolation you get when you come back home, and especially when you do feel like you’ve been left through the cracks,” he said, offering that about 50 percent of veterans who come to Homes for Heroes are straight from hospital or alternatively have been living in tents , cars, on the street.
“To come into a community where you’ve got a roof over your head and food in your belly, but also peers around you, that have got a bit of stability and able to share that with each other.
“We’ve got a got quorum of veterans who’ve been through the program, who will grab them and mentor them through and it’s just so crucial because there is nothing else out there in a hospital and being in the community and people are falling through the cracks,” Geoff said.
Homes for Heroes mission is to give veterans a sense of value and “convince them that people actually do care.”