Do you ever wonder why so many veterans end up living on the streets? It bothers me that so many of the men and women who have given so much to ensure our freedom are homeless. It’s just wrong.

Some of the facts about homelessness in veterans include:
23% of homeless population are veterans
33% of male homeless population are veterans
47% Vietnam Era
17% post-Vietnam
15% pre-Vietnam
67% served three or more years
33% stationed in war zone
25% have used VA Homeless Services
85% completed high school/GED, compared to 56% of non-veterans
89% received Honorable Discharge
79% reside in central cities
16% reside in suburban areas
5% reside in rural areas
76% experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems
46% white males compared to 34% non-veterans
46% age 45 or older compared to 20% non-veterans
(Statistics are from the National Coalition for the Homeless)
Female homeless veterans represent an estimated 3% of homeless veterans. They are more likely than male homeless veterans to be married and to suffer serious psychiatric illness, but less likely to be employed and to suffer from addiction disorders. Comparisons of homeless female veterans and other homeless women have found no differences in rates of mental illness or addictions.
Veterans are homeless for most of the same reasons other people are homeless:

• Unemployment
• Physical disabilities making it difficult to find or keep a job
• Pain issues
• Substance abuse
• Mental health issues
• Divorce and lack of social support system

In addition, many veterans have compounded issues:

• Inability to find a job upon returning home
• PTSD, TBI, amputations, and physical disabilities
• Pain issues and dependence on controlled substances
• Substance abuse related to PTSD
• Mental health issues – veterans who had mental health issues prior to enlistment find they are often compounded upon returning home as they are combined with PTSD. Returning veterans often find they developed mental health issues from exposure to active combat and the resulting stressors
• Isolation and lack of a social support system

Whatever the reason, the thought of our American heroes living on the street is hard to digest. There are special programs to help homeless veterans get the help they need to get back on their feet. You can reach the one the VA runs by calling 877-4AID-VET, or go to va.gov/homeless.


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