Fri. Mar 1st, 2024

Housing crisis: soldiers at the gates of homelessness

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Canadian Armed Forces Ombudsman sounds alarm on homelessness crisis housing which severely affects the military. (Archive photo)

  • Estelle Côté-Sroka (View profile)Estelle Côté-Sroka

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The housing crisis is hitting the Canadian military hard. Some live in their vehicles or go couch surfing and others rely on food banks. The Canadian Armed Forces ombudsman sounds the alarm: many are at risk of homelessness.

[An individual] shared with me [that his family] was homeless for five months, says Gregory A. Lick, Ombudsman of National Defense and the Canadian Armed Forces, with concern. He testified Monday before a House of Commons parliamentary committee studying the lack of available housing on or near military bases.

The rising cost of living hits military personnel hard, who are forced to move depending on their assignments.

Soldiers must make the difficult decision [to choose between paying] food or their rent.

A quote from Gregory A. Lick, Ombudsman of National Defense and the Canadian Armed Forces

The ombudsman agrees that this situation is not exclusive to military families. However, [they] move three to four times more often than the average Canadian and in general it is not by choice, families have a limited time to move and resettle, emphasizes Gregory A. Lick.< /p>Open in full screen mode

Some soldiers live in their vehicles or go “couch surfing” and others use food banks, according to the Canadian Armed Forces ombudsman (Archive photo)

Added to this is the fact that the military spouse often finds themselves unemployed – temporarily or permanently – due to these numerous moves. The household salary is therefore reduced for a certain period.

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Taken together, all of these factors mean that families are sometimes pushed into unsafe or unaffordable housing.

They live in recreational vehicles, they go couch surfing in some cases.

A quote from Gregory A. Lick, Ombudsman of National Defense and the Canadian Armed Forces< /blockquote>

Without hesitation, the ombudsman affirms that military personnel are at significant risk of becoming homeless.

After visiting military bases and squadrons in several regions for 15 weeks, the career soldier paints an alarming portrait of the situation.

I was shocked to see some individual housing in poor condition on [military bases], it is unacceptable for a human being, deplores the ombudsman.

Gregory A. Lick also says he received disturbing photos showing substandard toilets and mold on the walls and ceilings. These issues are more and more common and this affects the retention of military personnel, he believes

Over the past year, frustration and despair have been more present, family problems are the main reason why military personnel leave the Canadian armed forces.

A quote from Gregory A. Lick, Ombudsman of National Defense and the Forces Canadian armies

The ombudsman says he is concerned by the most recent data that the Canadian Armed Forces Housing Agency shared with him in January. Waitlists for military housing continue to rise in most parts of the country. For 2022-2023, the increase is 261% in Edmonton and 177% in Bagotville, he gives as an example.

The imbalance between the supply and demand for housing must be restored, argues the ombudsman. Without additional offer, he explains, the costs that households will have to absorb will increase well beyond the financial compensation granted to them by National Defense to deal with this situation.

Ultimately, it is an issue of [financial] resources.

A quote from Gregory A. Lick, Ombudsman of National Defense and the Canadian Armed Forces

The ombudsman also says he is surprised to see that the government does not call on the private sector more. Gregory A. Lick believes that the private sector could be of great help in building housing on bases or in temporarily housing military personnel in certain urban centers. Contracts could, for example, be concluded with hotel complexes.

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The Forces Ombudsman believes that the private sector could be of great help in building housing on bases or in temporarily housing military personnel in certain urban centers (Archive photo)

The ombudsman believes that the Department of National Defense takes the situation seriously, but doubt that he has all the resources necessary to tackle the problem.

I think the main problem is that they are not listened to [by the Treasury Board] or they are not able to assert their views on needs, puts Gregory A. Lick into perspective.

To be honest, I think [the government] is turning a deaf ear.

A quote from Gregory A. Lick, Ombudsman for National Defense and the Canadian Armed Forces

Ombudsman agrees it is unrealistic for the federal government to provide housing for all military personnel. Nevertheless, the implementation of a flexible housing strategy adapted to the economic context would be desirable.

The ombudsman also emphasizes that he only has part of the picture of the situation. He urges members of the parliamentary committee to question non-profit organizations or food banks to get a better idea of ​​the extent of the distress experienced by the military.

At the time of publishing these lines, the Treasury Board had not issued any comments.

Shortage of military housing: a lack of space “frustrating” for families

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