Two words that should never go together.
Yet on any given night, there are an estimated 50,000 veterans homeless in America. While that's nearly half the number of just four years ago thanks to national public/private partnerships funded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it's still 50,000 too many.
- More than 9 in 10 of America's homeless veterans are men, although the percentage of female homeless veterans is rising.
- Most homeless veterans are surviving on their own, typically having lost the vital relationships that could have provided a safety net. Addressing the fundamental issues that contribute to high rates of relationship breakdown among veterans is a key factor in reducing homelessness among our former servicemen and women.
- Most homeless veterans live in urban areas and are dealing with significant stressors, such as elevated anxiety, depression, mental illnesses, visible and invisible wounds, and, quite often, addictions that may have begun as an effort to self-medicate to mask physical and/or emotional pain.
- Nationally, veterans represent less than two percent of America's total population, but more than ten percent of our homeless population.
- Nearly four in ten homeless veterans are minorities.
- The largest group of homeless veterans are between the ages of 31 and 50.
- Nearly half of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam era. Two-thirds served for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone.
- About 1.4 million other veterans are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.
How many homeless veterans are there?
- Although exact counts are impossible to come by – the transient nature of homeless populations presents a major challenge to our nation. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that 49,933 veterans are homeless on any given night.
- In 2010, approximately 12,700 veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation New Dawn (OND) were homeless. The number of young homeless veterans is less than ten percent of the total homeless veteran population, but has been increasing.
What services do veterans need?
- Veterans need a coordinated effort that brings together public and private resources exclusively motivated by a shared commitment to ensuring no veteran is homelesss in America. That includes access to affordable housing and conveniently-accessible supportive services, job training, financial assistance as a bridge to housing stability, and effective case management to help every veteran and their family members successfully navigate challenges to obtaining the benefits they've earned.
What seems to work best?
- The most effective programs for homeless and at-risk veterans are community-based, nonprofits working in collaboration with local VA professionals that combine rapid housing assistance with dedicated, highly effective case managers equipped to deliver immediate access to vital supportive services and resources.
- Government funds, while important, are limited. Available services are often at capacity. It is critical, therefore, that community groups reach out to help provide the support, resources and opportunities that most Americans take for granted: housing, employment and health care. Veterans who participate in collaborative programs are afforded more services and have higher chances of becoming tax-paying, productive citizens again.