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 (OEF/OIF), and the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America. Nearly half of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam era. Two-thirds served our country for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone.
About 1.4 million other veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.
In addition to the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness – extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care – a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Additionally, military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment.
A top priority for homeless veterans is secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol.
Veterans need a coordinated effort that provides secure housing, nutritional meals, basic physical health care, substance abuse care and aftercare, mental health counseling, personal development and empowerment. Additionally, veterans need job assessment, training and placement assistance. All programs to assist homeless veterans must focus on helping them obtain and sustain employment.
Some of the VA Programs For Homeless Veterans
VA’s specialized programs for homeless Veterans serve hundreds of thousands of homeless and at-risk Veterans each year. Independently and in collaboration with federal and community partners, VA programs provide Veterans with housing solutions, employment opportunities, healthcare, justice and re-entry-related services and more.
This 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.
For very low-income Veterans, SSVF provides case management and supportive services to prevent the imminent loss of a Veteran’s home or identify a new, more suitable housing situation for the individual and his or her family; or to rapidly re-house Veterans and their families who are homeless and might remain homeless without this assistance.
State, local and tribal governments and nonprofits receive capital grants and per diem payments to develop and operate transitional housing and/or service centers for Veterans who are homeless.
This program encompasses residential care for sheltered and unsheltered Veterans with multiple challenges, illnesses or rehabilitative care needs. DCHV provides a structured setting to foster Veterans’ independence and mutual support.
What can I do?
Determine the need in your community. Visit the VA and homeless veteran service providers.
Involve others. If you are not already part of an organization, align yourself with a few other people who are interested in attacking this issue.
Participate in local homeless coalitions. Chances are, there is one in your community. If not, this could be the time to bring people together around this critical need.
Make a donation to your local homeless veteran service provider.
Contact your elected officials. Discuss what is being done in your community for homeless veterans.
Belmont County Veterans Service Office: