As of January 2014, about 49,933 veterans identified as homeless. As the years go by, this statistic has very likely increased. Many of these veterans are dealing with disabilities that have resulted from their time in service and many times homelessness can stem from other circumstance. For veterans, it can be both. Some of these veterans are dealing with mental health conditions that are so severe that they cannot sustain gainful employment. Others have physical disabilities. Many homeless veterans have both physical and mental disabilities. It seems that veterans more likely than civilians to be victims of homelessness.
Demographics of Homeless Veterans
In order to understand the crisis, one would need to see a visual of what it looks like. These statistics are from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans:
- 11 percent of the homeless population are veterans
- 20 percent of the homeless veteran population is male
- 68 percent reside in principal cities
- 32 percent reside in suburban/rural areas
- 51 percent of individual homeless veterans have disabilities
- 50 percent have a serious mental illness
- 70 percent have substance abuse and/or drug problems
Homeless veterans are facing the everyday stresses which include the following:
- insufficient income
- lack of employment
- lack of substantial housing
- addiction to alcohol and/or other drugs
VA Programs for Homeless Veterans
There are countless resources available for homeless veterans. The VA offers the following special programs to help homeless Veterans:
- S. Department of Urban Development – VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH)
- Supportive Services of Veteran Families
- Homeless Grant Per Diem (GPD) Program
- Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans (DCHV) Program
- Homeless Veterans Community Employment Services
- Compensated Work Therapy
- Community Resource and Referral Centers (CRRCs)
Sometimes these programs require that a veteran must be enrolled in the VA health care system. If you are a homeless veteran in need, I encourage you to reach out to the VA for the assistance you need.
What can be Done to Help Homeless Veterans Aside from the VA?
There are plenty of programs through the VA, as listed above, that can provide homeless veterans with assistance. But, sometimes the help that the VA provides is either not enough. So what can be done to help homeless veterans outside of the VA?
In the community, there may be people and/or organizations out there who just want to do a good deed and lend a helping hand. Homeless veterans can benefit from all of the assistance available to them. For those wanting to help, here are a few suggestions:
- Be their voice. Many homeless veterans will not be the first to ask for help. You can contact a veteran organization and see what you are able to do as a volunteer.
- It is likely that veteran organizations need help with funding. If you are not able to volunteer your time, any type of a donation will help. There are also charities designed specifically for homeless veterans that need assistance as well.
- Contact any agencies and/or coalitions in your area who work with homeless veterans. You can ask what can be done to assist with helping the homeless veterans in your area.
I believe that everyone should do their part and help a veteran in need. These veterans have fought for our country and risked their lives for us. It is our turn to do our part to make sure that these veterans are taken care of.