American veterans have sacrificed and risked everything to protect the country and the citizens of the United States. They have been separated from their friends and families and placed in hostile situations, where injury or death is a very real possibility. In spite of this, the number of homeless veterans continues to rise and not enough is being done as far as actually helping homeless veterans get back on their feet.
According to the National Coalition for the Homeless, more than 67 percent of the homeless vet population served in our military for at least three consecutive years. Around 33 percent of these veterans were stationed in a location inside a war zone. Statistics also show that homeless veterans in the USA have served in a variety of wars and foreign tours, and approximately half of all US veterans who are homeless served in the Vietnam War.
Obstacles to Helping Homeless Veterans Find Housing
There are a number of obstacles involved in helping homeless veterans find housing. According to U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs statistics 11 percent of the adult homeless population involves American veterans. Most of these veterans are single. They tend to live in cities and urban areas, and they struggle with substance abuse, mental health issues like PTSD and other forms of mental illness, or they have co-occurring disorders.
Helping homeless veterans find stable housing means addressing the obstacles that prevent the veteran from reaching this goal. Substance abuse and mental health treatment programs can remove obstacles that stand in the way of the veteran finding stable and reliable housing.
The Real Number of Homeless Veterans is Impossible to Determine
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development released an estimate that calculates on any given night there will be 47,725 veterans who are homeless. The true extent of homelessness among veterans cannot be calculated with complete accuracy because some of these individuals fall through the cracks or fail to take advantage of certain safety net programs.
This number is unacceptably high even according to the best estimates, and more needs to be done helping homeless veterans get off the street and into their own residence. When veterans are homeless this puts them at risk for many other problems as well.
Helping Homeless Veterans: What More can be Done?
Many people mistakenly believe that since there is a VA and other government agencies that are tasked with helping homeless veterans that there is no pressing need to do more, but this is completely false. American veterans deserve to be made whole, and to have a place to call home that is their own. As Americans, we owe them this, as well as our gratitude for everything that they have risked or lost while in military service.
One of most important answers is permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless people with special needs, including people with disabilities, mental illness, and addiction problems. It has been proven all over the country to get homeless people off the streets for good.
Source: Shad Meshad in the NVF article, Homelessness: Plenty of Talk, Not Enough Commitment.
Some possible ideas on how you can help the homeless veteran population in your area of the USA include:
- Take a look around your own local community and see if there is a need for helping homeless veterans. The odds are if you live in a city or urban area there are veterans who need help finding stable housing and other resources.
- Contact homeless and veteran organizations in your area to see what you can do. Volunteer to help in any way that you can, whether that is filling out paperwork or trying to locate homeless veterans who need assistance and shelter.
- Contact any agencies and coalitions in your area who work with the homeless. Inquire about helping homeless veterans; you may be surprised at how great the need is in your area.
- Donate to veteran organizations and charities that are specifically designed to assist the veteran population. These funds are sorely needed, and even a small donation can have a big impact on the life of a homeless veteran.
- Contact your politicians and elected officials to bring attention to the need for helping homeless veterans. When voters reach out to those in elected positions changes in the current laws or veterans programs are possible so that veterans receive additional assistance and have an easier time accessing the programs designed to help them once their military service is finished.
Give something back by helping homeless veterans. After everything that they have done to keep us safe and protect our country, they deserve our support now more than ever.
Make a difference in a vet’s life. We are veterans helping veterans.