Homelessness among military veterans is an unfortunate ongoing problem in America that the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and many other organizations are working to address. The good news is that progress is being made — data indicates an 11% reduction in veteran homelessness between 2020 and 2022.
While this is a big step in the right direction, as with many complex human welfare issues much more is left to be done. In this article, we’ll explore the factors contributing to veteran homelessness and the assistance available to veterans who need it.
Why Do Many Veterans Face Homelessness?
Studies show that due to multiple factors, veterans face a higher risk of homelessness than the general population. In this section, we’ll explore some of these factors and provide a statistical overview of veteran homelessness in the United States.
Contributing Factors to Veteran Homelessness
Veteran homelessness has multiple causes — we’ll discuss some important ones below.
Combat Exposure and PTSD
Veterans often deal with the aftermath of their experiences in combat, which can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental health issues. This can make it difficult for them to maintain stable housing.
Lack of Affordable Housing
The lack of affordable housing is a nationwide problem with a significant impact on veterans, making it harder for them to find a place to live within their means.
Civilian Job Transition
Nearly 200,000 veterans face challenges finding a job each year when their military service has ended. This difficulty in transitioning to civilian life also contributes to housing instability.
Where Can Homeless Veterans Find Assistance?
So where can homeless veterans find assistance? Options are available through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and nonprofit organizations. We’ll review some of these resources below.
Homeless Assistance Organizations
- National Alliance to End Homelessness works at the federal level, advocating for policies with the ultimate goal of eliminating homelessness in America. It seeks consensus across party lines to implement solutions based on research and practical knowledge.
- National Homelessness Law Center focuses on providing legal expertise and pro bono legal services to groups that advocate for and provide services to homeless people.
- Abode Services operates in the San Francisco Bay Area, providing health and support services to people in shelters and supportive housing, conducting street-level outreach, and finding permanent supportive housing for those in need.
- Chicago Coalition for the Homeless provides outreach in Chicago, assisting with reentry into communities, advocating for new affordable housing, assisting unsupported homeless youths, and coordinating the efforts of agencies providing services to youths.
- Depaul USA operates in eight cities: New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, New Orleans, St. Louis, Little Rock, Arkansas, and Macon, Georgia. It provides housing services, emergency services, food distribution, health services, and youth programs.
Government Resources for Homeless Veterans
- National Call Center for Homeless Veterans: First and foremost, homeless veterans can contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838). This 24/7 hotline connects veterans with trained Veterans Administration (VA) counselors who can provide information on available programs, health care, and other local services.
- HUD-VASH Program: The HUD-VASH program is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the VA. It offers rental assistance through Housing Choice Vouchers and pairs it with VA case management and supportive services to help homeless veterans and their families secure and maintain permanent housing.
- Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF): SSVF is a program designed to help veterans and their families who are at risk of becoming homeless or are already experiencing homelessness. It offers assistance with housing, employment, health care, and other services to support needy families.
- Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program: The GPD Program funds community agencies that offer transitional housing and supportive services to homeless veterans. These services help veterans work towards permanent housing and self-sufficiency.
- Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans Program (DCHV): DCHV provides short-term residential care to homeless veterans, offering medical treatment, mental health care, and vocational assistance in a supportive environment.
Nonprofit Organizations Assisting Homeless Veterans
A number of nonprofit organizations also work to support homeless veterans, including:
- U.S. Veterans Initiative is a comprehensive service provider that addresses the unique needs of veterans.
- National Coalition for Homeless Veterans works to end homelessness among veterans by shaping public policy, promoting collaboration, and building the capacity of service providers.
- Veterans Inc. is an organization that provides supportive services to veterans and their families across New England and in Montana and North Dakota.
- Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is a respected veterans service organization that assists veterans with disabilities in filing for benefits, getting medical care, and finding employment.
- Wounded Warrior Project provides support to veterans wounded in the line of duty, offering physical and mental health care, job training, and educational assistance.
How Many Shelter Beds Are There for Homeless Veterans?
According to Housing Inventory Count data, around 18,000 shelter beds are available for veterans across the United States, with most in transitional housing units.
Where Can Veterans Find Civilian Job Training?
- Department of Labor (DOL) provides training programs for veterans, including the Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS), which can help vets find training programs that match their skills and interests and provide financial assistance.
- Veterans Affairs (VA) offers a variety of training programs, including apprenticeships, on-the-job training, and college tuition assistance.
- Hire Heros USA is a platform that allows transitioning veterans to create and post their resumes, translate military to civilian skills, explore career tools, and search for jobs with military-friendly companies.
- Boots to Business Reboot is a program by the U.S. Small Business Administration that provides entrepreneurial education and training, giving an overview of business ownership fundamentals. It’s offered through the U.S. Department of Defense Transition Assistance Program (TAP).
- The Dog Tag Fellowship Program is a five-month program that enables veterans to earn a business certificate and practice running a successful bakery in their communities.
Additional Assistance Organizations for Veterans
For veterans who might not be homeless but could be heading towards that path due to factors such as mental health and substance abuse issues, several organizations offer assistance.
Mental Health Assistance Organizations
- The Veterans Crisis Line is a free, confidential resource for veterans in crisis, available 24/7 by calling 988 and pressing 1, texting 838255, or chatting online.
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a grassroots mental health organization that provides support and advocacy for people with mental illness and their families. It offers a variety of resources for veterans including support groups, educational programs, and advocacy assistance.
- Military OneSource, a U.S. Department of Defense program, provides free and confidential assistance to service members, veterans, and their families, with a variety of mental health resources including counseling, support groups, and educational materials.
- Give an Hour is a nonprofit organization that connects veterans with volunteer mental health professionals who provide free counseling services. It has over 200,000 volunteer mental health professionals in its network.
Substance Abuse Assistance Organizations
- The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is a federal agency that conducts and supports research on drug abuse and addiction, offering a variety of resources for veterans, including information on treatment options and research findings.
- The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) is another federal agency that provides information and resources on mental health and substance abuse. Its resources for veterans include a treatment locator tool and a helpline.
- The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation is a nonprofit organization offering inpatient and outpatient substance abuse treatment programs as well as extensive recovery support options.
- The Salvation Army is a nonprofit organization that offers a variety of social services for veterans including substance abuse treatment, job training, and food pantries.
What are the Statistics Surrounding Veteran Homelessness?
As of 2021, there were around 19 million veterans in the United States according to government statistics. It’s estimated that around 33,000 of these were homeless, but it’s important to note the actual number could be higher. Recent data reveals homeless veterans comprise around 6% of the total homeless population in the United States — higher than the percentage of homeless unaccompanied youth.
States with the Highest Number of Homeless Veterans
Below is a quick overview of states with the highest numbers of homeless veterans.
|Number of Homeless Veterans
States with the Highest Percentage of Homeless Veterans Relative to Overall Population
- Washington, D.C.
The statistics we’ve cited above shine a light on the numbers of homeless veterans and where they’re located. By understanding the scale of the veteran homelessness issue and the factors that contribute to it as we discuss elsewhere in this article, we can work together to support and uplift our nation’s heroes who have bravely served our country.
Addressing the issue of veteran homelessness is vital, and we can all play a part in making a difference. By better understanding the various factors contributing to homelessness among veterans, we can better support assistance programs and initiatives that help them find stable housing and reintegrate into society. While there’s still work to be done, significant progress has been made in recent years. With continued effort and collaboration, we can build a future where no veteran is left without a safe and secure home. Let’s unite to support and uplift the brave men and women who have served our country.