What is the one thing that a veteran of the US military should always be able to have? A home. Yet for millions of veterans, living on the streets has become a way of life. After serving and protecting the freedoms that they hold so dearly, these veterans are left to beg on the streets just so they can get enough food to eat.
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.
Homeless Veterans Facts
That’s an amazing statistic. There are veterans from World War II, which ended in 1945, that are homeless right now seven decades after they served. Why are so many veterans finding it difficult to have a home? Is there anything that can be done to solve this problem?
- About 12% of the adult homeless population are veterans.
- 92% of the homeless veteran population are men and suffers from at least one mental illness that could be diagnosed, as well as alcohol or drug abuse issues.
- About 40% 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.
- 41% are between the ages of 31 and 50, but nearly 50% of the entire veteran homeless community served in the Vietnam War.
- The percentage of veterans who are homeless and aged 30 or younger: 9%.
- 67% of the veterans served in the military for at least 3 years.
- 33% of the veterans who are currently homeless were stationed in a direct combat zone.
- Another 1.4 million veterans are at a direct risk of becoming homeless within the next 30 days because of their living conditions, support networks, and poverty.
- 23-29% of female veterans seeking VA medical care reported experiences of sexual assault, despite making up less than 10% of the total homeless veterans population.
- Poverty, lack of support from groups or networks, and substandard housing put about 1.4 million veterans at risk for homelessness.
There are a lot of things that Americans take for granted every day. The United States is one of the top users of fossil fuels, has a population that travels nearly 7 billion miles every day, and is easily one of the richest countries in the world. Despite all of these facts, there are tens of thousands of veterans who served to protect this lifestyle that are unable to receive the services they need in return. This is what needs to change about this country right now. There may be a few veterans that choose to be homeless because they prefer the lifestyle, but Americans as a people should be coming together to take care of those who once took care of them.
How Many Homeless Veterans Are There Right Now?
- According to official US government estimates from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 49,933 veterans are homeless on any given night.
- Between 529,000 and 840,000 veterans are homeless at some time during the year.
- About 1 in 5 veterans who is homeless on any given night fought in conflicts that were started after the events of September 11, 2001.
- The VA’s specialized homelessness programs provide health care to almost 150,000 homeless veterans.
- Another 112,000 veterans who are considered to be at a high risk of becoming homeless in the near future also take advantage of the VA’s assistance programs.
- The VA, using its own resources or in partnerships with others, has secured nearly 15,000 residential rehabilitative and transitional beds to provide additional supports.
- The efforts of the VA have thought to be responsible for reducing the homeless veterans population by as much as 70%.
Although measures are being taken to help veterans be able to cope with changing lifestyles that happen when military service is over, the statistics clearly show that not enough is being done to help support the men and women who don’t have the resources available to them when they are discharged. Sometimes admission to the VA can take up to 15 years. For a veteran suffering from PTSD, has no family, and can’t hold down a job because of their flashbacks and nightmares, what is left for them to be able to do except live out on the street without access to proper care? We are willing to take care of our wounded soldiers, yet these soldiers have internal wounds that affect their state of mind many times that we are willing to ignore. That is what needs to stop.
Is It Time To Focus On Homeless Veterans Right Now?
- Veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to become chronically homeless. Veterans are more at risk of becoming homeless than non-veterans.
- The number of homeless Vietnam-era veterans, male and female, is greater than the number of soldiers who died during the war.
- 80% of veterans successfully complete a training program or workshop that teaches them new skills if they are able to enroll into training.
- The percentage of veterans that are able to increase their income levels while enrolled in a re-training program: 70%.
- Unemployment among male Iraq and Afghanistan veterans rose from 5% in March 2007 to 15% in March 2010.
- 1 in 10 veterans is disabled, oftentimes by injuries sustained in combat.
- 45% of homeless veterans suffer from mental illness including PTSD.
- The smoking rates of veterans are up to 3x higher than in the general population.
- 19% of Iraq veterans report a mental health problem, as do more than 11% of Afghanistan veterans.
Focusing on veterans needs to include more than just giving them some spare change and a couple of cigarettes when we pass by them on the morning commute. It needs to include comprehensive training that will allow them to get into good jobs that can help them succeed. The military boasts that the job skills being learned are able to translate into civilian jobs later on down the road, but the unemployment figures seem to counter this statement as they have tripled over recent years, even though overall unemployment figures are going down. Women are especially vulnerable, even as a minority population, because of the tendency to commit violent acts against them. This is why it is so important to act today.
It Isn’t Just Homelessness That Is Affecting Veterans
- An estimated 140,000 veterans are being held in state and federal prisons, with 90% of the population being in state prisons.
- 99% of the prisoners who were also veterans are men.
- The median age (45) of veterans in state prison was 12 years older than that of non-veterans (33).
- Veterans are half as likely to commit a crime that sends them to prison than the rest of the general population.
- The U.S. Army accounted for 46% of veterans living in the United States yet 56% of veterans in state prison.
- Nearly all veterans in state prison (91%) reported at least a high school diploma or GED, while an estimated 40% of non-veterans lacked either.
- The percentage of veterans who are in prison with a sentence that is a minimum of 20 years: 33%.
- Veterans were more likely than other violent offenders in state prison to have victimized females and minors.
- 25% of the veterans who are in state prison are considered to be sex offenders.
It’s been said that desperate times call for desperate measures. That has to be the philosophy of US veterans that are suffering from PTSD, a TBI from combat, and a host of other health issues – including cancer that originated from exposure to things like Agent Orange. When people are desperate, they are more willing to compromise on their core values in order to find a momentary relief from the chronic pain and symptoms that they are experiencing. This is likely why veterans commit suicide at twice the rate of the general population and why they are 2.5x more likely to be a sex offender then the general population. The statistics prove that veterans need help now, not later. The only question which remains is this: from where will that help originate?
Will Veteran Homelessness End By The Next Election?
- Between 2010 and 2014, there was a nearly 33 percent reduction in Veteran homelessness.
- In fiscal 2014, the VA dedicated $1.4 billion to specialized homeless programs and $5.4 billion to health care for Veterans who are homeless.
- In fiscal year 2013, 111,549 calls were made to the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans, an increase of 38% over the year before.
Actions have been taken and results have been seen, but more work needs to be done. 5% of veterans who are homeless live in rural areas and have no practical way to find the supports they need. 89% of the homeless veterans have received an honorable discharge. The needs of the homeless veteran is very much the same as the veteran that has a supportive home to enjoy every night. The only difference is that one group is largely ignored while the other is supported.