By Debbie Gregory.
It may be hard for some to understand why, after serving their country so bravely, a good number of veterans come back, only to struggle with basic housing. The homeless veteran population appears to occur after every conflict, from World War II and Vietnam to Afghanistan and Iraq. One contributing factor is an extreme shortage of affordable housing compounded by many military occupations not translating to the civilian workforce. This increases the struggle for those needing specialized healthcare for PTSD, TBI, or mental health counseling.
With that said, statistics are changing. There are indications that there was a decline in the number of homeless veterans in January 2014 (49,933); 33 percent less than the statistics from 2010. The majority of homeless veterans still remain to be male, however, approximately eight percent are female.
It appears that 50 percent of homeless vets are between the ages of 18 and 50, with only 10 percent being younger vets under 31. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, 40 percent are African American or Hispanic. This is significant in that ten percent of the entire veteran population is African American and four percent of all veterans are Hispanic.
Type of service also seems to factor in these statistics; approximately 33 percent of homeless veterans were stationed in a war zone. Twice that percentage served for at least three years. Compared to the American public, veterans are twice as likely to succumb to homelessness, and women veterans’ risk is four times greater than their male counterparts.
While strides are being made to reduce these statistics, poverty, difficulty obtaining support specific to their needs, and substandard housing remain the primary reasons that veteran homelessness still occurs. Among this population, some 40,000 individuals receive monthly compensation of some sort, but it’s simply not enough to cover U.S. basic living standards. Even more challenging is housing for those who have special needs, modifications that come at a higher cost. Without adequate support, upwards of two-thirds of homeless veterans have unaddressed substance abuse issues.
It is likely that homeless veterans need approximately six years to improve their situation, where as those who have never served appear to see improved opportunities in about four years.
Many who ask “why” might ask “how” – how can these statistics change? Rather than looking at the situation on a national level, the answer most likely rests with local support. Communities can assess what the needs are in their area, and build local support or coalitions. Perhaps there are already veteran service providers that need more funding or volunteers. It’s important to contact local officials who have a stronger voice in paving the way for improvements, support, and most importantly, hope.
Military Connection proudly serves those who serve in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve, Veterans and their families. We are the go-to site for Veteran Employment and information on Veteran education. Militaryconnection.com provides Veterans with and Directory of Employers, a Job Board, information on the Post-9/11 GI Bill, and a blog that offers Veterans boundless information. Be sure to visit Militaryconnection.com, the go-to site.
Promising Statistics on Veteran Homelessness: Military Connection: by Debbie Gregory