Despite a significant amount of attention paid to veteran homeless over the past 20 years, veterans continue to face enormous challenges in securing affordable and decent housing. Damon Dorsey, Executive Director of the National Association of Minority Veterans of America, says “from a single mom in her 20s with two children to the 78 year old Vietnam War Veteran, too many veterans continue to struggle in finding stable and affordable housing.” Dorsey says that housing challenges are compounded by PTSD, joblessness and, in some cases, incarceration – “and the numbers only get worse for minority veterans.” Some of the challenges include the following:
- The majority of the roughly 1 million homeless veterans in the US are Vietnam veterans, and many have struggled with addition issues.
- A third of all homeless people in the US are veterans who had fought in the armed services, including many chronically homeless.
- About a third of veterans who served after 2001 pay more than 30% of their income on housing, according to the NHC.
- Minority groups, particularly African America, Native American and Hispanics, are disproportionately represent homeless veterans.
- Many veterans have returned from combat zones to find few job opportunities—and the positions that are available often pay much less than they earned in the armed services.
- Roughly 8% of veterans are women, according to HUD’s 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress, and that number is expected to rise as more women serve in the military.
- “Female veterans face disproportionate housing challenges compared to male vets, primarily a result of economic challenges resulting from lower pay, on average to males.
- Many female veterans are dealing with the affects of sexual trauma experienced during their service in the military. 23% of female users of VA services report that they experienced sexual assault during their service, and the real number may be higher.
- Adding to the challenge, 35% of veterans who are older than 55 have a disability that is related to their service, including scars from old wounds received in combat. These ailments are only going to become progressively more severe as this group of vets age and become frailer.
Some Solutions to Addressing Veterans Housing Needs
- Develop more affordable housing, with support services, to provide veterans with stable and affordable places to live.
- Connect veterans to job training or programs designed for veterans at local colleges.
- Develop housing targeted to the safety and security needs of female veterans.
- Develop more senior and supportive housing for aging veterans, to meet the growing health needs they have as they age.
- Support more outreach to connect veterans to VA home-buying resources and programs.