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Homeless American Veterans

Author: Wendy Taormina-Weiss

Published: 2011-06-19

Synopsis and Key Points:

Reduction in number of homeless veterans is promising but there are still veterans who have served America and struggle with homelessness unemployment and additional barriers.

Main Digest

In the United States of America there are approximately 23 million veterans of the Armed Forces.

Current estimates from the Veterans Administration have shown a significant decrease in the numbers of homeless veterans from the year 2003, when around 313,000 veterans on a given day were homeless, to 107,000 veterans in 2009. The reduction in the numbers of homeless veterans is promising, yet there are still veterans who have served America and struggle with homelessness, unemployment, and additional barriers.

Within the population of homeless veterans in America today, approximately 63,000 veterans are chronically homeless, meaning they have had no place to live for more than a year. In addition, 1.5 Million veterans are living in poverty, while 634,000 veterans live in extreme poverty and are at risk of becoming homeless. Almost 13,000 of these veterans at risk of becoming homeless are women.

While veterans might seem to be a fairly small percentage of the general population in America, they do make up one-fifth of the homeless population.

Nearly 45% of homeless veterans need assistance with finding a job and 37% need help in obtaining a place to call home states a Department of Housing and Urban Development Study.

Approximately two-million Americans have served in Iraq and Afghanistan to date; 200,000 are women. Consider the fact that 30-35,000 of the women who have served in these wars are single and have children. What we are witnessing is a growing new generation of veterans who face new challenges.

The overall rate of people who are homeless in Los Angeles County, for example, has fallen by approximately three-percent over the last two years. Homelessness among veterans in this same county; however, has actually grown according to a study performed by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority. The study reveals that 18% of the population of homeless people in Los Angeles County are homeless veterans - a three-percent increase from the year 2009.

The report also states, "Veterans have a higher rate of chronic homelessness than the general population.

31 percent of homeless veterans are chronically homeless, up from 19 percent in 2009." A survey performed in January by Los Angeles County revealed the number of homeless had reached 51, 340 people. For the city of Los Angeles itself, the numbers of people who were homeless had reached 23, 539, representing an increase of nine-percent from the year 2009. It is important to note the overwhelming majority of homeless veterans are African-American and Latino.

The study by Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority believes the decrease in the rate of homelessness among the general population in LA County is due to new and expanded programs from both the government and local organizations. Specifically, the Authority says the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-housing program brought $29.5 Million to Los Angeles, as well as $12.2 Million to Los Angeles County. The study states, "This critical funding enabled eligible shelter clients to move to permanency, while simultaneously creating shelter vacancies to be filled by other homeless persons living on the streets. Without this unprecedented funding, it is likely that homelessness would have increased even more in Los Angeles."

Homeless Veterans

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states America's homeless veterans are mostly male with around five-percent being women. Most homeless veterans are single and come from urban areas. They experience forms of mental health disabilities, co-occurring disorders, alcohol or substance abuse. Approximately one-third of the homeless population is comprised of veterans, according to the VA.

The homeless veterans in America have served in World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, in Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, the Iraq War, and in Afghanistan. They have also served in the military's anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America. Almost half of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam war. Two-thirds of the veterans who are homeless served America in the military for at least three years; one-third were stationed in a war zone.

Around 56% of all homeless veterans are, as mentioned, African-American or Hispanic - despite the fact that they account for 12.8 percent and 15.4 percent of the population in America respectively. Approximately One and a Half Million Veterans in America are considered to be at risk of homelessness because of a lack of support networks, poverty, and living conditions that are dismal, overcrowded, or substandard.

The Veterans Administration and the Military, in the meanwhile, continues to consistently under-rate the disabilities soldiers experience during their service to America.

So What Can I Do To Help

You can determine the need in your own community and visit homeless veteran providers. You can contact your mayor's office for a list of providers or search the NCHV database. You can get other people involved in the effort to end homelessness among veterans.

If you are not already part of an organization, you can align yourself with others who are interested in ending homelessness in the population of veterans who have served America. You can participate in a local homeless coalition; the chances are good there is one in your own community. If there isn't, it could be the time to organize people and create one. You can also make a donation to your local homeless veteran provider, contact your elected officials, and discuss what is to be done in your community for homeless veterans.

Homeless Veterans

Homeless Veteran Service Providers (NCHV Database)

Los Angeles Homeless Services Report -

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