A colleague of mine, Dr. Susan Ray, started her research career investigating Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) amongst peace-keepers. She was approached to do some work looking at Canadian veterans and homelessness, and thought her expertise in PTSD would be of use. This was a reasonable expectation, as much of the work on veterans and homelessness in the U.S. has looked at PTSD, trauma while serving overseas, and family breakdown upon return.
However, Dr. Ray has been surprised by her preliminary findings. The majority of Canadian veterans who have become homeless have not served overseas, or if they have, not in a conflict zone. Few have been treated for or are diagnosable as experiencing PTSD. Instead, this is the story that Dr. Ray has been hearing most often:
- Individuals enlist in the army in their early 20′s.
- After enlisting they are deployed to a base, in Canada or overseas.
- On the base they encounter a culture of alcoholism, where heavy drinking is the norm, and even encouraged.
- Upon discharge, the drinking becomes problematic, leads to family breakdown, homelessness, and some move on to other substances.
So, interestingly, she is finding that veteran homelessness in Canada is much more about the culture of the military than the traumatic experiences of war. I look forward to hearing more about where she goes from here.