WASHINGTON — The Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs departments today published what officials say is the most authoritative analysis yet of the extent and nature of homelessness among military veterans.
According to HUD and VA’s assessment, nearly 76,000 veterans were homeless on a given night in 2009, while roughly 136,000 veterans spent at least one night in a shelter during that year.
The assessment, part of President Barack Obama’s plan to prevent and end homelessness in America, is based on an annual report HUD provides to Congress and explores in greater depth the demographics of veterans who are homeless, how veterans compare to others who are homeless, and how veterans access and use the nation’s homeless response system.
“This report offers a much clearer picture about what it means to be a veteran living on our streets or in our shelters,” HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said. “Understanding the nature and scope of veteran homelessness is critical to meeting President Obama’s goal of ending veterans’ homelessness within five years.”
“With our federal, state and community partners working together, more veterans are moving into safe housing,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said. “But we’re not done yet.
“Providing assistance in mental health, substance abuse treatment, education and employment goes hand-in-hand with preventive steps and permanent supportive housing,” Shinseki continued. “We continue to work towards our goal of finding every veteran safe housing and access to needed services.”
Obama announced in June the nation’s first comprehensive strategy to prevent and end homelessness, including a focus on homeless veterans. The report, Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, puts the country on a path to end veterans’ and chronic homelessness by 2015; and to ending homelessness among children and families by 2020.
Key findings of the report include:
— More than 3,000 cities and counties reported 75,609 homeless veterans on a single night in January of 2009; 57 percent were staying in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program while the remaining 43 percent were unsheltered. Veterans represent about 12 percent of all homeless people counted nationwide during the 2009 assessment;
— During a 12-month period in 2009, about 136,000 veterans — or about 1 in every 168 veterans — spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program. The vast majority of sheltered homeless veterans — 96 percent — experienced homelessness alone. Four percent of homeless veterans were found to be part of a family. Sheltered homeless veterans are most often single white men between the ages of 31 and 50 and living with a disability;
— Veterans are 50 percent more likely to become homeless compared to all Americans and the risk is even greater among veterans living in poverty and poor minority veterans. HUD and VA examined the likelihood of becoming homeless among American veterans with particular demographic characteristics and found that during 2009, twice as many poor Hispanic veterans used a shelter compared with poor non-Hispanic veterans. African American veterans in poverty had similar rates of homelessness;
— Most veterans who used emergency shelter stayed for only brief periods. One-third stayed in a shelter for less than a week; 61 percent used a shelter for less than a month; and 84 percent stayed for less than three months. The report also concluded that veterans remained in shelters longer than did non-veterans;
— Nearly half of homeless veterans were in California, Texas, New York and Florida while only 28 percent of all veterans were located in those states;
— Sheltered homeless veterans are far more likely to be alone rather than be part of a family household; 96 percent of veterans are individuals compared to 66 percent in the overall homeless population.
HUD and VA are working to administer a joint program targeting homeless veterans. Through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program, HUD provides rental assistance for homeless veterans while VA offers case management and clinical services.
HUD last month awarded $1.4 billion to keep nearly 7,000 local homeless assistance programs operating. The Department also allocated $1.5 billion through its new Homeless Prevention and Rapid Re-housing Program. Made possible through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, HPRP is intended to prevent persons from falling into homelessness or to rapidly re-house them if they do.
To date, more than 750,000 people, including more than 15,000 veterans, have been assisted through HPRP.
U.S. Department of Defense
Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Public Affairs)