Special Challenges Among Homeless Veterans

Social Solutions Blog

Special Challenges Among Homeless Veterans

Veteran Homelessness by the Numbers

Homelessness is a problem that continues to affect hundreds of thousands of Americans on a daily basis. According to the 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, over 550,000 Americans were homeless on a given night in 2018. One of the most disproportionately affected demographics of the homelessness population are veterans who served in the United States Armed Forces. Here’s a snapshot of veteran homelessness on a given night in 2018:

  • 37,878 veterans were experiencing homelessness in the U.S., accounting for just under nine percent of all homeless adults.
  • 38% of veterans were staying in places not suitable for human habitation
  • 18 out of every 10,000 veterans experienced homeless on a given night

While these numbers may seem grim, the good news is that since 2009 the number of veterans experiencing homelessness has almost been cut in half, by 48%, or just over 35,000 people. While that figure is promising, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness continues to fluctuate with an increase in the population between 2016 to 2017. Let’s take a look at some of the main causes:

Causes of Homelessness Among Veterans

The high rate of veteran homelessness is driven by a number of factors. Like the general homeless population, veterans are at a significantly increased risk of homelessness if they have low socioeconomic status. Multiple and extended deployments may contribute to unemployment and family conflict which can lead to isolation and poverty, increasing their risk for homelessness.

Two additional risk factors for homelessness across all populations are mental health disorders and a history of substance abuse. According to a 2014 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 21% of veterans in a substance abuse treatment program were also homeless. For veterans, these factors can compound putting them at an even greater risk of homelessness than the general population.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Up to 80% of homeless Veterans suffer from mental health and/or substance use disorders. The path into and out of homelessness is often complicated by untreated or under treated mental health and substance use disorders. Even after housing has been obtained, the presence of these disorders can further isolate homeless Veterans, resulting in greater rates of emergency room visits and hospitalizations.”

Ways to Help Combat Veteran Homelessness

If your agency is working to end homelessness among veterans, help is available. Programs focused specifically on ending the scourge of veteran homelessness have been developed and funded through HUD (Housing and Urban Development) and the VA (Veterans Administration). The programs focus on Housing First – an approach that makes housing the number one priority when serving homeless persons, including veterans, and making sure that appropriate support services are available to help them maintain housing.

There is also a strong emphasis on data collection and analysis in the move to end veteran homelessness. Data collected in Housing Management Information Systems (HMIS), such as length of stays at homeless shelters or transitional housing, where veterans place on vulnerability indices, and data regarding their utilization of crisis services are all factored into housing decisions, with the goal of ensuring the right services are offered at the right time.

Contact us today for more information about how an HMIS solution can help you in your efforts to combat homelessness in your community.



Post update 7/19/19

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