There are a number of resources available to veterans and individuals seeking assistance with housing. The Disabled Veterans Resource Center refers veterans to various organizations if they are in need of these services.
Just over 9% of all homeless adults in the United States are military veterans. Data collected by the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) reports that 37,878 veterans were living on the streets (38.5%) or in shelters (61.5%) in January 2018. It’s a problem across the U.S., the states with the highest populations also home to the highest number of homeless veterans. Nearly one-third of homeless veterans reside in California (28.6%), followed by Florida (6.7%), and Texas (5.1%).
While the majority of homeless veterans are male (91.5%), female veterans are more than twice as likely as civilian females to experience homelessness. And the number of elderly homeless veterans are rising. Veterans age 62 and over increased 54.3% from 2009 through 2016 and approximately 60% of homeless veterans are already over age 51.
Our nation’s veterans deserve better. They’ve spent years serving our country with the promise that they will be well cared for when they get back home. Most leave service with a number of emotional, mental, and physical issues. A majority aren’t prepared for the challenges of shifting into civilian life. Without an understanding support network and adequate transitional assistance, many turn to crime or substance abuse, making it difficult to maintain employment or acquire housing – a tragic yet easily entered downward spiral.
Unfortunately, many veterans aren’t aware that treatment and housing assistance is available to them. Rarely do they seek help without it being offered, the VA and government programs fail to reach out, and the public remains uneducated about the many ways they can help. Veterans living in unstable housing, shelters, or on the streets simply go unnoticed.
Veterans Housing Resources
Risk Factors For Homelessness
Identifying what puts a veteran at high risk for experiencing homelessness can provide helpful insight in how best to attack the problem. For veterans in particular, several factors contribute to the risk of experiencing homelessness at some point, including:
- Service-related disabilities
- Mental health disorders
- Substance abuse problems
- Criminal activity
- Poor transition preparation
- Inaccurate perceptions
Preventing Veteran Homelessness
Strong, effective military transitional training and education is key in helping veterans obtain and maintain stable households with stable employment upon release from service. Throughout service, service members should also be made aware of the risk factors and difficulties with transition, how to prepare for those challenges, and how to pursue goals and ambitions upon separation from active duty.
Programs designed around higher education, like DoD TAP’s Accessing Higher Education module should involve training designed by educators and must ensure service members understand requirements for admission and how to secure financial aid. Early access to plans for higher education well in advance of leaving service could give interested service members the necessary tools and time necessary to be ready to enter school upon their leave date.
Many veterans express interest in starting their own business, yet unlike many civilian entrepreneurs, veterans lack the networking time, contacts, mentorship, and access to financial capital upon leaving service. Of post-9/11 veterans surveyed, 62% had either started or considered starting their own business after the military, many being inspired by other veterans who started their own business or by financial assistance available to veteran entrepreneurs. However, nearly 50% of veterans who considered starting their own business reported a lack of access to necessary capital.
Surveys also suggest that 82% of veterans would be interested in participating in veteran-focused apprenticeships and internship programs. These veterans felt such programs would be helpful in acquiring new skills and certifications and would better prepare them for job opportunities outside of the military.
Three out of four employers surveyed felt veteran-focused apprenticeships and internship programs would benefit their businesses. Both veterans and employers stated they were interested in apprentice/internship programs focused on skilled trades and Information technology. Employers felt such programs would help attract and retain veteran employees and that the programs could ensure veterans develop the skills (both technical and soft skills) necessary to succeed in their companies.
In addition, government officials and the public must work to highlight the skills, experience, and discipline veterans can bring to the workplace and community. We must address the issues that tend to separate military families and the civilian community so that both benefit from the presence of the other. Both civilians (79%) and employers (87%) have expressed an interest in developing relationships with veterans through community projects. And 90% of veterans feel such projects would be useful in helping them integrate into and relate with their communities.
As we work to bring down the number of veterans living on the streets and in unstable housing, we must also work to lower the risk factors for homelessness among veterans, improve employment opportunities, and enhance overall well-being. Improved data collection is essential.
Most data on veteran homelessness and mental health is limited to those veterans in veteran-specific housing assistance programs and VA health care. Regular data collection that incorporates veteran status outside of the VA system is vital to gaining an accurate picture of the current state of veteran well-being. With this data, we can work to establish programs that target all veterans in need and prevent housing challenges for service members transitioning into civilian life.
The Disabled Veterans Resource Center refers veterans to various organizations if they are in need of these services.