STATISTICS FOR HOMELESS VETERANS
Who are homeless veterans?
One out of four homeless men are veterans. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states that the nation’s homeless veterans are predominantly male, with roughly 8% being female. The majority are single; live in urban areas; and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. About 12% of the adult homeless population are veterans.
Roughly 40% of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 10.4% and 3.4% of the U.S. veteran population, respectively.
Homeless veterans are younger on average than the total veteran population. Approximately 9% are between the ages of 18 and 30, and 41% are between the ages of 31 and 50. Conversely, only 5% of all veterans are between the ages of 18 and 30, and less than 23% are between 31 and 50.
America’s homeless veterans have served in World War II, the Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq (OEF/OIF), and the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America. Nearly half of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam era. Two-thirds served our country for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone.
About 1.4 million other veterans, meanwhile, 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 flawless counts are impossible to come by – the transient nature of homeless populations presents a major difficulty – the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that 49,933 veterans are homeless on any given night.
Approximately 12,700 veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation New Dawn (OND) were homeless in 2010. The number of young homeless veterans is increasing, but only constitutes 8.8% of the overall homeless veteran population.
Why are so many veterans homeless?
The factors that contribute to homeless veterans is complex. Many of the factors influence all homelessness. Most poeple that find themslef homelss experience a shortage of affordable housing, a livable income and access to health care. A large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are often compounded by a lack of family and social support. Additionally, military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment.
A top priority for our homeless veterans must be to provide them with safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol.
Doesn’t the VA take care of homeless veterans?
We’ve all seen the VA in the news. The record is spotty at best. Each year the VA’s specialized homelessness programs provide health care to nearly 150,000 homeless veterans and other (non-healthcare) services to more than 112,000 veterans. Another 40,000 homeless veterans receive compensation or pension benefits each month from the VA.
Since 1987, VA’s programs for homeless veterans have emphasized collaboration with local community organization to help expand services to more veterans in crisis. VA, using its own resources or in partnerships with others, has secured nearly 15,000 residential rehabilitative and transitional beds and more than 30,000 permanent beds for homeless veterans throughout the nation. These local partnerships are credited with reducing the number of homeless veterans by 70% since 2005.
What services do veterans need?
Veterans need a coordinated effort that provides secure housing, nutritional meals, basic physical health care, substance abuse care and aftercare, mental health counseling, personal development and empowerment. Additionally, veterans need job assessment, training and placement assistance. What homeless veterans need most is a solid support network and reliable employment.
What seems to work best?
The most effective programs for at-risk and homeless veterans are community-based, “veterans helping veterans” groups. The veteran programs that seem to work best feature transitional housing with the camaraderie of living in structured, substance-free environments with fellow veterans.
Government money is limited and available services are often at full capacity. When you share posts and information from HomelessFriend.org you’re helping educate the public about the issues that face the homeless and the community groups helping provide support, resources and opportunities that many Americans take for granted like housing, employment and health care. Veterans who participate in collaborative programs with other veterans are connected with more services and have a higher chance of becoming tax-paying, productive citizens again.
What can I do?
- Determine the need in your community. Visit with homeless veteran service providers in your area. You can call your local social services or mayor’s office for a list of providers.
- Involve others. If you are not already part of an organization, align yourself with a few other people who are interested in helping homeless veterans.
- Participate in local homeless organizations. Chances are, there is one in your community. If not, this could be the time to bring people together. The need is great.
- Make a donation to your local homeless veteran service provider.
- Contact your elected officials. Discuss what is being done in your community for homeless veterans. Politicians pay attention when contacted by their constituency. Let them know you care about our homeless vets.
HOMELESS VETERANS FACTS
DEFINITIONS, DEMOGRAPHICS AND ESTIMATED NUMBERS
What is the definition of “homeless”?
The United States Code contains the official federal definition of homelessness, which is commonly used because it controls federal funding streams. In Title 42, Chapter 119, Subchapter 1, “homeless” is defined as follows:
§11302. General definition of homeless individual
(a) In general
For purposes of this chapter, the term “homeless” or “homeless individual or homeless person” includes––
- an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and
- an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is––
A. a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide
temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and
transitional housing for the mentally ill);
B. an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be
C. a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping
accommodation for human beings.”
Who is a veteran?
In general, most organizations use U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) eligibility criteria to determine which veterans can access services. Eligibility for VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions. Benefits vary according to factors connected with the type and length of military service. To see details of eligibility criteria for VA compensation and benefits, view the current benefits manual here.
DEMOGRAPHICS OF HOMELESS VETERANS
- 12% of the homeless adult population are veterans
- 20% of the male homeless population are veterans
- 68% reside in principal cities
- 32% reside in suburban/rural areas
- 51% of individual homeless veterans have disabilities
- 50% have serious mental illness
- 70% have substance abuse problems
- 51% are white males, compared to 38% of non-veterans
- 50% are age 51 or older, compared to 19% non-veterans
The most recent research comes from the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a special report on incarcerated veterans. The following is from, “Veterans in State and Federal Prison, 2004,” which assessed data based on personal interviews. The numbers have dramatically gone up since the study was completed.
Numbers and profiles:
- There were an estimated 140,000 veterans held in state and federal prisons. State prisons held 127,500 of these veterans, and federal prisons held 12,500.
- Male veterans were half as likely as other men to be held in prison (630 prisoners per 100,000 veterans, compared to 1,390 prisoners per 100,000 non-veteran U.S. residents). This gap had been increasing since the 1980s.
- Veterans in both state and federal prison were almost exclusively male (99 percent).
- The median age (45) of veterans in state prison was 12 years older than that of non-veterans (33). Non-veteran inmates (55%) were nearly four times more likely than veterans (14%) to be under the age of 35.
- Veterans were much better educated than other prisoners. Nearly all veterans in state prison (91%) reported at least a high school diploma or GED, while an estimated 40% of non-veterans lacked either.
- The U.S. Army accounted for 46% of veterans living in the United States yet 56% of veterans in state prison.
- In 2004, the percentage of state prisoners who reported prior military service in the U.S. Armed Forces (10%) was half of the level reported in 1986 (20%).
- Most state prison veterans (54%) reported service during a wartime era, while 20% saw combat duty. In federal prison two-thirds of veterans had served during wartime, and one quarter had seen combat.
- Six in 10 incarcerated veterans received an honorable discharge.
- Veteran status was unrelated to inmate reports of mental health problems.
- Combat service was not related to prevalence of recent mental health problems. Just over half of both combat and non-combat veterans reported any history of mental health problems.
- Veterans were less likely than non-veteran prisoners to have used drugs. Forty-two percent of veterans used drugs in the month before their offense compared to 58% of non-veterans.
- No relationship between veteran status and alcohol dependence or abuse was found.
Convictions and sentencing:
- Veterans had shorter criminal histories than non-veterans in state prison.
- Veterans reported longer average sentences than non-veterans, regardless of offense type.
- Over half of veterans (57%) were serving time for violent offenses, compared to 47% of non-veterans.
- Nearly one in four veterans in state prison were sex offenders, compared to one in 10 non-veterans.
- Veterans were more likely than other violent offenders in state prison to have victimized females and minors.
- More than a third of veterans in state prison had maximum sentences of at least 20 years, life or death.
- National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
- The 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress
- Veteran Homelessness: A Supplemental Report to the 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress; Housing and Urban Development
- Congressional Research Service Report for Congress: Veterans and Homelessness; Libby Perl; February 2012
- Homeless Incidence and Risk Factors for Becoming Homeless in Veterans; VA Office of Inspector General; May 2012
- The 2012 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness, Volume 1 of the 2012 Point-in-Time Annual Homeless Assessment Report; Housing and Urban Development