Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Homeless Veterans

For many reasons it is difficult to fully account for the actual number of
homeless (including veterans) in the US. Many sleep in their cars, in the
woods, or other hard to locate areas. The difficulty in accurately counting
the homeless is compounded by the fact that the numbers do not include
those who are living with others due to economic need or in motels due to
lack of adequate housing. Furthermore, the definition of homeless used
often excludes many, including those who are in prison or jail and those
residing in permanent housing for the homeless. There is not a national
database to help track our homeless veterans. Most available statistics
don't include the many vets that are at risk of becoming homeless.

Approximately 1/3 of homeless adults (one out of every three) in this country
are veterans, yet veterans represent only 11% of the civilian population. On
any given night 154,000 - 300,000 veterans are homeless. Based on various
estimates, 500,000 - 840,000 veterans are homeless at some time during the
year. In 2008, 44% of people surveyed reported being homeless for the
first time. This number was 37% in 2007. According to the Department of
Veterans Affairs the number of homeless Vietnam era veterans exceeds
the number of fatalities that occurred during the war.

Veterans become homeless for the same reasons non-veterans
become homeless, including due to the rising foreclosure and
unemployment rates, as well as due to veteran specific issues.

  • Severe shortage of affordable housing, livable income,
    & access to health care
  • Drug and alcohol abuse problems
  • Physical and mental illness
  • Combat related physical & mental illnesses (e.g., PTSD)
  • Reduction in educational benefits
  • Lack of adequate family and social support

  • 300 vets who returned from serving in Iraq (OIF or Operation Iraqi
    Freedom) & Afghanistan (OEF or Operation Enduring Freedom)
    sought assistance for homelessness between 2004 & 2006. In
    May 2008 U.S. Medicine reported that at least 1,500 veterans of
    OEF/OIF are homeless & many expect this number to continue
    to rise. The NCHV's Iraq Veteran Project reported that OIF/OEF
    vets are in serious danger for homelessness & chronic homelessness.
    One source reported that in 2007 the DVA had identified over 1,000
    OIF/OEF returnees as at risk for homelessness. The Iraq Veteran
    Project had also found that OIF/OEF veterans are becoming homeless
    sooner after their return from combat than seen in previous wars. In
    addition to the veteran homelessness risk factors noted above,
    the researchers identified the following reasons for this.

  • Extended deployment and/or repeated deployment
  • Unemployment - there are three-times as many (15%) unemployed
    OIF/OEF veterans ages 20-24* than there are nationally (5%)
  • Familial disruption - around 40% of OIF/OEF veterans are from the
    National Guard & Reserve & these families have less access
    to support than families of regular service members
  • In March 2009 the overall unemployment rate for OIF & OEF
    veterans 18 and older was 11.2% (one in nine are jobless)
    vs 8.8% for non vets in the same age group.
    * 15% of OIF/OEF vets ages 20-24 were unemployed in March 2009 as well

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