Just a few years ago, you would find more than 200,000 veterans homeless on the streets of the United States on any given night.
As Policy Advice reports, that number has since dropped to 40,000, 11% of all homeless adults in the US, but for them the situation is no less dire.
A joint study between Yale University and the VA Connecticut Health Care System in 2015 found that veterans have a higher risk of going homeless than non-veterans, and there are many reasons for that disparity.
According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, Veterans face the same lack of affordable housing and economic hardship that civilians faces in addition to the challenges brought on by multiple and extended deployments. Some veterans return home to find their military occupations and training are not transferable to the civilian workforce, placing them at a disadvantage when competing for employment.
A 2015 study co-authored by Jack Tsai and Robert A. Rosenheck from the Yale School of Medicine showed how social isolation and lack of support can greatly increase the risk of vets going homeless. In general, veterans have low marriage and high divorce rates; 1 out of 5 live alone. Without proper social support after discharge, the risk of going homeless is extremely high among vets.
According to the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness’ report, “Homelessness in America: Focus on Veterans,” a majority of veterans experiencing sheltered homelessness had a disability. More than one in four veterans experiencing homelessness who received health care services from the VA also received diagnoses of chronic medical conditions, more than one in four received a diagnosis of depression, one in eight received a diagnosis of PTSD, about one in five received a diagnosis of alcohol abuse, and about one in five received a diagnosis of drug abuse.
Late Vietnam and post-Vietnam veterans are at the greatest risk of becoming homeless more and more veterans returning from deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq are showing signs of traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, both of which correlate with homelessness.
In 2008, the The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH). a collaborative program between HUD and VA combines HUD housing vouchers with VA supportive services to help Veterans who are homeless and their families find and sustain permanent housing.
It has since helped tens of thousands of veterans out of housing instability.
According to the VA, through public housing authorities, HUD provides rental assistance vouchers for privately owned housing to Veterans who are eligible for VA health care services and are experiencing homelessness. VA case managers may connect these Veterans with support services such as health care, mental health treatment and substance use counseling to help them in their recovery process and with their ability to maintain housing in the community.
Among VA homeless continuum of care programs, HUD-VASH enrolls the largest number and largest percentage of Veterans who have experienced long-term or repeated homelessness. At the end of 2019, there were 90,749 Veterans with active HUD-VASH vouchers and 83,684 vouchers in use.
The HUD-VASH program was designed to address the needs of the most vulnerable homeless veterans, and Congress has appropriated additional funding for new HUD-VASH vouchers every year since 2008, but the amount has decreased by $35 million in that time. Join others in demanding the VA and HUD increase funding for this crucial program.
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