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Liberals target fall for release of homeless veterans strategy

Last Updated Aug 11, 2017 at 12:28 pm EDT

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a roundtable with local Indigenous leadership in Tofino, B.C. on Saturday, Aug. 5, 2017. Trudeau will apologize to former students of residential schools in Newfoundland and Labrador. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Melissa Renwick

OTTAWA – The federal government plans to release a long-awaited strategy to tackle veterans’ homelessness this fall amid rising concerns from veterans groups and homeless advocates about the Liberals’ interest in the issue.

The strategy has gone through multiple iterations since last summer, when it was labelled a discussion paper by Veterans Affairs Canada, but an October draft appears to be the final version sent to Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr for his approval.

The revised plan obtained by The Canadian Press includes additions that underline the need for an emergency housing fund to help needy veterans cover rent or mortgage payments to prevent them from becoming homeless.

There is also an emphasis on peer-to-peer support mechanisms and outreach activities so veterans are used to help their comrades in crisis.

A spokeswoman for Hehr says some ideas in the strategy are going to be rolled out starting in April, with the remaining recommendations implemented over the next five years.

Jim Lowther, co-founder of VETS Canada, which helps homeless veterans, questions the government’s urgency on the issue, given the long timelines attached to the strategy’s creation and implementation, and notes that American officials have aggressively attacked the problem in the United States over the last five years.

A government study of national shelter data estimated that in 2014, there were 2,950 veterans who used shelters, about 2.2 per cent of all users.