Home­less vets living at beach

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Western Suburbs Weekly - By JON BAS­SETT

HOME­LESS vet­er­ans are living in their cars at beach carparks through­out Perth to cope with post-trau­matic stress dis­or­der (PTSD), ad­dic­tion or fam­ily break­down, from the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars where at least 67,000 Aus­tralians have now served.

“I know in the past 2-3 months of at least a dozen guys who are sleep­ing in their cars near beaches in the metropoli­tan area, or have gone to the re­gions,” Sol­dier On WA manager Daniel Fog­a­rty said.

Mr Fog­a­rty, a for­mer Army medic who served in Ti­mor, vis­its the men for the 2012-es­tab­lished char­ity that fills men­tal health, fi­nan­cial and work gaps cre­ated by de­layed re­ac­tions to armed ser­vice.

“It’s a com­bi­na­tion of the beach pro­vid­ing some ‘peace and quiet’ and it also be­ing a place of last re­sort,” he said.

Fre­man­tle, west­ern and north­ern sub­urbs’ beaches are favoured lo­ca­tions.

“Some have just got to the end of the line where they’ve lost their job, the money has dried up and there’s been re­la­tion­ship break­downs,” Mr Fog­a­rty said.

In 2008, be­fore most sol­diers re­turned from re­cent Mid­dle East wars, it was es­ti­mated up to 3000 vet­er­ans of all con­flicts were home­less across Australia each night.

A for­mer com­bat en­gi­neer in his early 30s who did two Afghanistan War de­ploy­ments has now lived in his car be­side west­ern sub­urbs’ beaches for five months.

“He came back and said he was a changed per­son, in­creased his al­co­hol in­take, got an­gry, lashed out, and his re­la­tion­ship with his fam­ily broke down,” Mr Fog­a­rty said.

Sol­dier On has con­nected the for­mer en­gi­neer with the RSL, Le­gacy and other ex-ser­vice or­gan­i­sa­tions.

Mr Fog­a­rty said while ap­pre­cia- tive, the sol­dier was more con­cerned to point him to oth­ers in a worse sit­u­a­tion.

Mr Fog­a­rty said $300 mil­lion for na­tional men­tal health care, an­nounced by Fed­eral Gov­ern­ment last week, could have an ef­fect if it reached the de­part­ments of Vet­eran’s Af­fairs or De­fence re­spon­si­ble for ex-sol­diers’ men­tal care.

Vet­er­ans and Vet­er­ans Fam­i­lies Coun­selling Ser­vice: 1800 011 046.

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