Homeless Veterans

According to the repot released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in the United States About 11% of the adult homeless population are veterans. While only 8% of Americans can claim veteran status, 17% of our homeless population is made up of veterans. In 2010, the U.S VA estimated that on any given night there were 76,000 homeless veterans sleeping on American streets. Roughly 45% 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 predominantly male, with roughly 9% being female. The majority is single; live in urban areas; and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. 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.

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.

Veterans experience homelessness for many of the same reasons that non-Veterans do, including economic and personal hardships, a shortage of affordable housing and access to health care. However, research shows that the greatest risk factors for homelessness are lack of support and social isolation after discharge. Exposure to combat and repeated deployments may also further contribute to homelessness. Veterans have high rates of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and sexual trauma that may make it difficult for them to build trust or control impulses, or other effects that challenge their ability to find employment and build stable relationships. Multiple and extended deployments may also contribute to unemployment and family conflict that can lead to isolation and homelessness. Also, a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Veterans have low marriage rates and high divorce rates; and, currently, 1 in 5 veterans is living alone. Social networks are particularly important for those who have a crisis or need temporary help. Without this assistance, they are at high risk for homelessness. 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 homeless veterans is secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol.

Despite the Department of Veterans Affairs take care of homeless veterans; the problem of homelessness among veterans is a big one. 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.


Military service member holding little cardboard house

Military service member holding little cardboard house


Initiatives and Programs for Homeless Veteran Service Providers

This page offers providers serving homeless veterans policy guidance and tools to assist in implementing programs to end veteran homelessness in their communities.

Guidance and Tools for Homeless Veteran Service Providers

This page offers information about initiatives to end veteran homelessness, as well as HUD and other federal programs and partners that offer resources for veterans experiencing homelessness and for the providers who serve them.

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