Homelessness is a serious problem facing veterans in the U.S. today. Around 13% of homeless adults are veterans, and over 40,000 U.S. veterans are currently homeless. Homeless veterans programs can help homeless veterans or veterans at risk of becoming homeless find and keep safe, stable housing.
Why Are So Many Veterans Homeless?
Veterans are slightly more likely to be homeless than the general population, with 21 out of every 10,000 veterans facing homelessness compared to 17 out of every 10,000 civilians.
Homelessness among veterans is a complex issue with many contributing factors. Transitioning to civilian life can be difficult for veterans — 44% of veterans who served after September 11, 2001, reported difficulty transitioning back into civilian life. Traumatic events, prior combat experience, and injuries can make a transition out of military service more difficult for veterans.
Veterans of color have a higher risk of homelessness. Among Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander veterans, 106 out of every 10,000 is homeless. All veterans of color are at a significantly higher risk of homelessness than white veterans.
Veterans have many of the same risk factors for homelessness as civilians, including substance abuse and mental illness. Risk factors specific to veterans include low military pay grades and social isolation after returning from military service.
What Programs Help Homeless Veterans?
Many programs exist to help homeless veterans or veterans at risk of homelessness obtain and keep stable housing. These include programs from both government-run and non-profit organizations.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH). HUD-VASH is a joint program between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). This program combines HUD’s housing choice vouchers for government-subsidized housing with VA resources for mental health care, substance abuse counseling, or other needed services.
Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP). HVRP is an employment-focused program that provides homeless veterans with employment training.
Domiciliary Residential Rehabilitation and Treatment Programs (DRRTP). DRRTP is a residential care program for veterans struggling with homelessness or other severe issues like substance use disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. Placement in this program generally lasts from 30 to 120 days and provides veterans with residential care, counseling, and community while teaching skills needed for gainful employment.
U.S. Vets. This non-profit organization provides emergency, transitional, and permanent housing to homeless U.S. veterans. Workforce training, job placement assistance, and free counseling and treatment services are also available.
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV). While this organization doesn’t provide direct resources, NCHV can connect homeless veterans with resources like rent and mortgage assistance, federal benefits, and community organizations that serve homeless veterans in their local area.
Is Homelessness Among Veterans Declining?
Veteran homelessness has been declining over the last decade. The White House, HUD, and the VA have recognized New Orleans, Houston, Las Vegas, and Philadelphia for functionally ending veteran homelessness in their cities.
These cities were among 25 cities that participated in the VA’s 25 Cities Initiative between 2014 and 2016. This initiative reduced veteran homelessness by 22% within the 25 participating cities and housed almost 30,000 veterans. Overall, more than 920,000 homeless veterans have been permanently housed since 2011, and the rate of homelessness among veterans has declined by 50%. The VA and other organizations continue to develop new programs to assist with finding housing for homeless veterans.
What Can I Do to Help Homeless Veterans?
There are many ways you can help homeless veterans in your community. Offering donations, doing volunteer work, or simply engaging with those who have the power to make changes are all greatly helpful.
Encourage the development of affordable housing in your community. If you’re a landlord, consider accepting HUD vouchers, and encourage other property owners in your community to do the same. Risk-mitigation funding can encourage property owners in your community to rent to homeless veterans who don’t have HUD vouchers.
Encourage your employer to provide opportunities to veterans. Employers can connect with VA community employment coordinators at their closest VA medical center. There, they can post job openings and interview local veterans.
Consider providing pro-bono services to area veterans. Veterans struggling with homelessness or at risk of homelessness often need services like legal advice, home repairs, or haircuts to help them find or keep homes or employment. If you offer a professional service, consider taking some pro-bono veteran clients.
Donate to housing-first organizations. "Housing first" is an evidence-based strategy for ending homelessness that prioritizes housing. It works to provide other stability services such as counseling, rehabilitation, and employment counseling after the individual has secured safe housing. HUD-VASH adopted a housing-first model in 2012. U.S. Vets is a housing-first non-profit that works with homeless veterans. Other housing-first organizations include the National Alliance to End Homelessness and the National Homelessness Law Center.