Dark side of vet­eran ex­pe­ri­ence

Western Suburbs Weekly - - News - By JON BAS­SETT

VETER­ANS 360 char­ity founder Jay Dev­ereux says Anzac Day crowds must re­mem­ber the ranks of home­less, drug and al­co­hol-af­fected, and of­ten sui­ci­dal, for­mer mem­bers of the de­fence forces.

“The lit­er­a­ture says it’s five to 12 years af­ter con­flicts that we get the crit­i­cal mass of those who fall away from so­ci­ety. We are now two years into that, and we have al­ready dealt with al­most 200 veter­ans and their fam­i­lies since Oc­to­ber 2015,” Mr Dev­ereux said.

The for­mer Com­mon­wealth Bank chief of se­cu­rity had his own break­down, men­tal ill­ness, home­less­ness for nine months, and drug and al­co­hol abuse from 2003 to 2005.

He now op­er­ates Mor­ley-based Veter­ans 360, run­ning two homes for cri­sis and medium-term veter­ans’ hous­ing in the Bayswa­ter area.

His net­work of for­mer and serv­ing ADF mem­bers use Face­book, per­sonal con­tacts and other char­i­ties to find home­less veter­ans across Perth and Aus­tralia.

In Perth, Mr Dev­ereux’s “as­sertive outreach” of­ten brings re­sults, such as the night on April 27, 2015 he spent find­ing a for­mer SAS sol­dier in Fre­man­tle, be­fore mak­ing con­tact with a man fit­ting the de­scrip­tion near St Pa­trick’s Church the fol­low­ing morn­ing.

He sub­se­quently ac­cepted the of­fer of help from V360.

“I knew then and there it was him be­cause in the next two min­utes, as he walked away, not once did he look back over his shoul­der,” Mr Dev­ereux said.

The man, one of the reg­i­ment’s most highly re­garded, was on the streets af­ter a men­tal break­down but af­ter be­ing housed by mates, given coun­selling and re­con­nect­ing to his fam­ily, he now has a new life in the eastern states.

Af­ter World War I, the RSL’S pre­de­ces­sor would find trench sur­vivors on the streets and give them food and blan­kets and hos­tel ac­com­mo­da­tion.

Mr Dev­ereux said his pri­or­ity was ac­com­mo­da­tion be­cause fam­i­lies re­port that their vet­eran mem­bers who have com­mit­ted sui­cide were usu­ally home­less the pre­vi­ous year.

“65 per cent of home­less peo­ple think about sui­cide, 27 per cent at­tempt it, and the re­main­der suc­ceed,” Mr Dev­ereux said.

He said while younger veter­ans’ is­sues were now bet­ter un­der­stood and there were bet­ter con­nec­tions be­tween veter­ans’ groups, coun­sel­lors and hos­pi­tals, it had prompted him to ask why gov­ern­ments were not bet­ter pre­pared when the end of re­cent con­flicts were known for years.

Pic­ture: An­drew Ritchie www.com­mu­ni­typix.com.au d467466

Jay Dev­ereux, founder and CEO of Veter­ans 360, with clients Jason and Phil.

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