Veteran Homelessness: A National Disgrace
Shaun Donovan, the Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and the former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development stated in a recent blog post that the rate of homelessness among our nation’s veterans ranks as a “national disgrace.” Veterans of U.S. military service are disproportionately likely to experience homelessness when compared to the general population of the country. Some shocking statistics: While they make up only seven percent of the general population, veterans are 11 percent of adults who are homeless.
Twenty percent of the male homeless population is made up of veterans.Veterans between the ages of 18 and 30 are twice as likely as adults in the general population to be homeless, and the risk of homelessness increases significantly among young veterans who are poor. While overall, homeless vets tend to be male, female veterans make up the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, according to the New York Times.
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Causes of Homelessness Among Veterans
This 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 major risk factors for homelessness across all populations are mental health disorders and a history of substance abuse. 50% of homeless veterans have serious mental health diagnoses and 70% have substance abuse issues. Also, because of vets’ military service, this population is at higher risk of experiencing traumatic brain injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), both of which have been found to be among the most substantial risk factors for homelessness.
Another problem faced by homeless vets is one faced by many homeless individuals. Landlords are reluctant to rent to homeless persons. A recent study found almost 6,200 homeless veterans in Washington D.C. who had government vouchers designed to cover their rent had been unable to locate landlords that would accept them. All of these factors combine to create a perfect storm in which vets are 50% more likely to become homeless than other Americans.
Ways to Help Combat Veteran Homelessness
If your agency is seeking to end homelessness among veterans, there is help 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 precepts, such as making 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. Should you need more information about HMIS or how to get homeless case management software at your agency, contact one of our Social Solutions consultants for more information.