Shedding Light on America’s Homeless Veterans

In the United States, there are nearly 650,000 homeless adults, and over 10% of them are veterans. Upon returning home, veterans face many challenges that can lead to homelessness, such as mental illness, substance abuse, foreclosure, poverty and unemployment. These issues are often compounded by misconceptions about veteran homelessness, particularly regarding the amount of support they receive from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Thankfully, the VA has become aware of these challenges and has redoubled its effort of ending veteran homelessness.

The Numbers

  • Number of Homeless People in the U.S.: 636,017
  • Number of Homeless Veterans: 67,495
  • 10.6% of the nation’s homeless population are veterans.
  • Veterans are 2 times as likely as other Americans to become chronically homeless.

Homeless Veterans Statistics

  • 89% received honorable discharge
  • 67% served 3 or more years
  • 47% are Vietnam Veterans
  • 15% served pre-Vietnam
  • 5.5% are Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans

Percent of homeless population who are veterans:

  • 15.1% or more : AK, AZ, KS, LA, MT, NC, NV, SC, SD, TN, WV
  • 11.1% – 15% : AR, AL, CA, CT, MS, ND, NM, FL, GA, TX, WY
  • 8.1% – 11% : CO, DE, DC, ID, IN, KY, MA, MN, MO, NC, NH, OK, OH, PA, UT, VA, VT, WA, WI
  • 8.0% or less: HI, IA, IL, ME, MI, NE, NJ, OR, RI

The Reasons

  • Substance abuse/Mental illness: 76% of homeless veterans experience alcohol, drug or mental health issues
  • Foreclosure: In 2010, more than 20,000 veterans with government-sponsored mortgages lost their homes.
  • Poverty: More than 968,000 veterans had been in poverty during the last year.
  • Unemployment: 30.2% of veterans ages 18 to 24 are unemployed.

What is Being Done

In 2009, President Obama and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced the federal government’s goal to end veteran homelessness by 2015.

What the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is Doing

HUD-VA Supportive Housing (VASH) Program

In a partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the VA has allocated 38,000 housing vouchers to veterans, allowing them to live in market-rate rental units.

VA’s Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV)

This program offers outreach, exams, treatment, referrals and case management to veterans who are homeless and dealing with mental health issues.

Homeless Veteran Supported Employed Program (HVSEP)

HVSEP provides vocational assistance, job development and placement, and ongoing support to improve employment outcomes among homeless veterans and veterans at risk of homelessness.



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