Served the country, not served by the country

Dozens of veterans are reported to be homeless in The Netherlands in 2019. 

By Annelijn Oviawe & Thirza de Raad

Homeless shelter Leger des Heils recently did a brief research within the organisation on homeless ex-militaries. The research included testimonies of their staff members and it suggested that hundreds of veterans visit the shelter.

Ex-militaries often suffer from mental health issues. Even though the ministry of Defence in The Netherlands provides veterans mental healthcare support, the ex-militaries with the most serious mental issues such as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) struggle being helped in these institutions. Of the 110.000 veterans, one to two percent suffers PTSD.

Het Leger Des Heils, location East-Amsterdam.

Currently there is only one long term shelter for veterans, called ‘Thuisbasis Veteranen’. This shelter takes in ex-militaries with all sorts of war-trauma. Here the veterans live ‘protected’ from themselves and the outside world. This small institution is not financed by the ministry of Defence. Their argument for this is that there is a lack of insight into how big the group that will make use of this service is.

Menno de Boer, spokesman of Leger des Heils, said the following thing about veterans living on the street: ‘We can’t give specific numbers on how many veterans are living on the street, but we do have a clear suspicion that there are more there are hundreds. We find this a very important target group; veterans are people that fought for our safety and accepted the consequences. We as a society have the responsibility to handle that well, these people deserve recovery, guidance and a person to talk to. It’s a very sad situation which we take very seriously.’

The ministry of Defence supports mental healthcare but does not finance long-term shelter for veterans. It is debatable whether Het Leger Des Heils is the right place for veterans to go or if the problem lies with The ministry of Defence in the first place.

‘We are determined to take the research into this problem further and making it more extensive. What is sure is that Het Leger des Heils is busy on developing a new program specially designed for ex-militaries.” according to Menno de Boer.