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The Real Facts About Veteran Homelessness

Sign from a homeless veteran on the streets.

For a long list of reasons, many veterans find themselves on the streets. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates that 49,933 veterans are homeless on any given night.

Veteran homelessness is a widespread concern, and the statistics don’t lie. While it’s easy to see why veterans might be susceptible to homeless situations upon returning to civilian life, there are many complex problems at play. In order to help fix the problem, we need to know the facts.

Here are 7 homeless veterans facts that might surprise you.

7. 11 percent of the adult homeless population are veterans.

This is an important fact when you consider that veterans represent only 2 percent of the U.S. population as a whole. In simple terms, that percentage is much higher than it should be. Not that we want anyone to be homeless – but if it’s bound to happen, the best-case scenario is that the ratio is proportionate. Unfortunately, way too many veterans find themselves on the street.

6. More than half of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic.

A similarly disproportionate ratio is the reality of how many African American and Hispanic veterans are homeless. These two groups respectively make up only 10.4 and 3.4 percent of the entire veteran population. Often, minorities come from disadvantaged economic situations to begin with, and returning to civilian life can prove to be especially difficult for these groups, sometimes leading to homelessness.

5. Homeless veterans are predominantly young people.

According to the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans, 9 percent of homeless veterans are between the ages of 18 and 30 while 41 percent are between the ages of 31 and 50. When you think about it, this is also a disproportionate ratio since these two groups only make up around 28% of the veteran population as a whole.

4. 53 percent of homeless veterans are disabled and half are mentally unstable.

When it comes to disabilities, veterans are likely to have lost a limb or gotten critically injured while in the service. Many disabled people come to find themselves in a position of homelessness due to extreme medical costs or a lack of resources. It just so happens that veterans have a high chance of becoming disabled.

In the same vein, veterans often suffer from mental disorders after traumatic experiences during wartime. Issues like PTSD and substance abuse in an attempt to escape their problems can eventually lead to losing your home, and unfortunately, veterans are likely to develop these mental issues.

3. On average, homeless veterans stay homeless for longer.

When compared to non-veteran homeless people, veterans tend to stay homeless for longer periods of time. In general, homeless veterans spend nearly six years without a home, while non-veteran homeless people spend four years in the same situation.

2. Nearly half of all homeless veterans served in the Vietnam War.

While the population of homeless veterans includes those who fought in every U.S. conflict, it’s interesting to learn that half of those veterans are from the Vietnam War era. A tumultuous time for the U.S. Armed Forces, indeed, it’s clear that many young soldiers had a hard time readjusting to civilian life. Perhaps, with improved attitudes toward the military as a whole, another group of veterans won’t have to suffer such dire consequences as they re-acclimate to non-combative reality.

1. Since 2009, homelessness among veterans has dropped by 48.4 percent.

There is some good news, though. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, when it comes to homeless veterans, the numbers are improving. It seems that numerous programs to assist veterans have been successful including better outreach, employment opportunities, transitional housing, and treatment for substance abuse through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Supportive Services for Veteran Families program and the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program.

There’s still a long way to go when it comes to ending veteran homelessness, but every year new programs are being set into motion to avoid the causes of homelessness in the first place. Learn more at the VA website.

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