According to numbers collected on a single night last January, 57,849 Veterans were living homeless on the streets of this nation’s cities, which is an eight percent decline since 2012 and a 24 percent decline since 2010.

The homeless are often looked down upon in American society, and the true tragedy is seeing our heroic Soldiers fall to this. What we often don’t understand is what would cause our Soldiers to give up on their ambition and dreams and to live outside on the corner of Main Street. Many of us do not understand this because we do not know, as our Veterans do, the experience of war. (i)

After their service has ended, some Veterans deal with issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injuries or sexual trauma. After dealing with difficult experiences in war, some Veterans desire a life of seclusion.  While some choose not to get help, others are unable to seek necessary help. According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, Veterans are the most likely group to experience long-term, chronic homelessness. (ii)

Thirteen percent of all homeless adults are Veterans, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. (iii) Eight percent of those homeless veterans are female.(iv)

When faced with these statistics, you might wonder why the government seems to have failed to help our homeless Veterans. While we may not currently see the visible impact from government programs, they are there, and they are helping. In 2011, President Obama and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki set the goal to end chronic homelessness among Veterans by 2015. When they set this goal, President Obama implemented a plan called Opening Doors, which aims to prevent and end homelessness.

VA , HUD and local agencies across the country conduct point-in-time counts on Jan. 31, 2013, to get a statistically reliable, unduplicated count of sheltered and unsheltered homeless Veterans, individuals and families in the U.S. (Robert Turtil/VA)

Opening Doors has five main themes and from those, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness has identified five key areas for strategic action. The first is to provide affordable housing to Veterans and the second is to provide them with permanent supportive housing. Supportive housing is shown to be one of the most effective bridges between homelessness and independent housing. A study conducted as part of the Federal Collaborative Initiative to Help End Chronic-Homelessness concluded that 95 percent of participants were in independent housing after spending one year in permanent supportive housing. (v)

The third focus is to increase meaningful and sustainable employment by matching Veterans’ skills with work, so that they will want to remain in jobs for a long period of time.

The fourth is to reduce financial vulnerability by enhancing information, reducing barriers and improving access to services. The emphasis is on making homeless Veterans aware of the government programs available to help them.

The fifth and final focus is transforming the homeless crisis response system. This is the point at which the government partners with the community. There needs to be a quicker response to homeless Veterans showing up in a city. People who take notice can spread the word to these Veterans about the help that is available to them.

Government programs help many Veterans. According to VA, the Supportive Services for Veteran Families helped approximately 35,000 adults and children receive assistance in the first year alone. (vi) This still leaves thousands of Veterans and their families homeless. Although the VA pushes to end Veteran homelessness by 2015, that possibility is nearly impossible without the help of others. VA has just announced the availability of up to approximately $600 million in grants for non-profit organizations and consumer cooperatives that serve very low-income Veteran families occupying permanent housing through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program.

Still, VA cannot do it alone. Organizations and individuals in communities across the country are integral to providing services to Veterans and spreading the word about the resources VA provides to end and prevent homelessness among Veterans.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans has found that the most effective programs are “community-based, nonprofit ‘Veterans helping Veterans’ groups. The Veteran will feel a greater connection when the community reaches out to help, encouraging him or her to ’pay it forward’ to other Veterans.”

Find more information on the plan to end Veteran homelessness, as well as information about what you can do to help the homeless Veterans in your community here.

 

Elizabeth Leatham (left), formerly with the Senior Veterans Service Alliance wrote the bulk of this article with additional facts and information provided by Valerie Buck, currently with SVSA.

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8 Comments

  1. Erma Knarr January 26, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    The point is that there are homeless veterans in America!!! Ones who put on the uniform, signed a contract to defend our country! Homeless veterans, cutting benefits by 1%, jobless veterans should not even be a statement or discussion. There are many homeless veterans, regardless of why, it should be that it ends and never happens again. There are apartments being built for homeless veterans, however, most veterans don’t get in, due to not meeting income elgibility!!! Really! How disgusting. A government or private sector should not captialize on a population for their own benefits. In the past 2 months, I know of 100 veterans denied due to their income status. Some places the vet needs to be in the income bracket of $14 – 22, 0000.oo to qualify for certain newly built apartments for veterans. Why, so the private sector can get their tax credit!! That should be very wrong. If you are helping, supporting and working with veterans, you should not benefit. Do it because you did not sign the contract and put on the uniform, perform the duties…it should be the private sector’s way of giving back to the military population, not a gain!! I think that these places should be investigated, the rules, regulations, and these are places that accept the HUDVASH. A large amount of money has been released by the government to help end homelessness with the veteran population, that money should be accounted for, every single shiney new penny of it! The red carpet should be pulled out from under the people who are co-dependant on social services and rolled out to the veterans first. Go back in history and people will see that food stamps were to help families during war time to help make ends meet. Wow did that spiral out of control? I support our troops, I claim all veterans as mine, I work with homeless veterans on a daily basis, because I want to! I have a large military family going back to WWI and today, I still have active military family members. THANK YOU ALL, WHO HAVE SERVED, set your civillian life aside because you believed in America and the American people. God bless you all

  2. Charlie H January 25, 2014 at 12:20 pm

    The VA has refused to help with much needed knee surgery for over 2 years and refuses to state why. Unable to work in my profession I have spent all my savings on health care and living.

    Now I am about to be homeless.

    The worst care in the USA is VA health care. Every week I hear from Honorable Veterans who complain of the incompetence of VA medical staff.

  3. Ron Nesler January 15, 2014 at 8:00 pm

    Your job is to help veterans. We are not the enemy, we are the reason you have your paycheck. .

    https://www.facebook.com/groups/390788321019815/

    Female Combat vet Gives the VA Hell!

    • tambi jankata January 20, 2014 at 6:59 pm

      i,m on 60% initial claim appeald back in oct/26/2011 and still my case with the wiston salim office,it has been 27 months for my appeal and they would not give me a time frame,they say to get the statment of case it takes 222 days that BULL,it has been more than 792 days and i,m sure there are thousends of vetrans who has my case,shame on you VA and shame on us who believed in you ,no ethics no standerds,lies lies and more lies,yes deny deny up untill the veteran die,what a shame and what a waste of tax payer money ,we used to be a Great nation once but not any more.sure we will become homeless.

      • HENRY P.BUTTERFIELD January 23, 2014 at 6:10 pm

        I AM IN THE MANUFACTURED HOUSING BUSINESS AND HAVE BEEN FOR 47 YRS,I HAVE BUILT MANUFACTURED HOUSING PARKS,OR MOBILE HOME PARKS ACROSS CALIFORNIA AND UTAH ,IN LAS VEGAS WE HAVE NEW HOSPITAL FOR OUR VETS TO USE WHY CAN’T WE GET FUNDING TO BUILD PARK’S OR COMMUNITY’S ALL ACROSS THE NATION FOR OUR VETS AND PROVIDE FOR THEM ,I HAD MY OWN FACTORY YEARS AGO AND I CAN DO IT AGAIN ,MR WARREN BUFFETT HAS FACTORY’S ALL ACROSS THE UNITED STATES AND HE IS SO CLOSE TO THE PRESIDENT OF OUR COUNTRY MAYBE HE WILL HELP , I WILL DO WHAT EVER IS POSSIBLE TO DO WHAT I CAN FOR THIS COUNTRY’S HEROES

  4. Timothy January 15, 2014 at 5:13 pm

    Wow, briefly this is my story. Seventeen year veteran resigned commission to deal with wife’s illicit borrowing and financial mismanagement of family assets. Wife files for divorce when discovery of mishandling and theft is confronted in addition files to have me legally removed from family home and state (Nebraska), legally abducts my child from me the father while my wife files bankruptcy to secure the home on her behalf while fraudulently denying me access to all property and child.

    Wow, lawyers simply only want to follow procedure of court without challenging the behavior and actions of the wife’s illicit dealings.

    Currently, living with friends in their basement because it is all I can afford.

    Out in the cold in NEBRASKA.

    • Steve January 16, 2014 at 9:23 am

      I’ve heard so many similar stories. Layers know where the money is. They have no regard for truth or justice. The justice department needs to be held responsible. I will pray for you and all in similar situations. God bless, and thank you for your service.

    • Alpha January 16, 2014 at 3:16 pm

      Timothy,
      I had a buddy go through the same thing… except his wife also had a baby that he later found out wasn’t his.

      You hang in there. It does get better.

      Thanks for your service, and good luck.

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