Sunday, June 21, 2009

Homeless Veterans..How Many Are There?

While accurate figures are hard to come by, the number of homless veterans is about 1 in 3.
Sources vary in their figures, even the VA is not sure. One claim is 299,000 on any given night
and 400,00 during the year. And 30 percent of the homeless veterans are from the Cold War and Vietnam.

Since most of the veterans from this era are older the numbers are bound to increase as compaines "down size" and more of these people will lose their jobs.

Here are some figures from Stand Down, an organization dedicated to helping homless vets.
Approximately 1/3 of homeless adults (one out of every three) in this country are veterans, yet veterans represent only 11% of the civilian population. On any given night 154,000 - 300,000 veterans are homeless. Based on various estimates, 500,000 - 840,000 veterans are homeless at some time during the year. In 2008, 44% of people surveyed reported being homeless for thefirst time. This number was 37% in 2007. According to the Department of Veterans Affairs the number of homeless Vietnam era veterans exceeds the number of fatalities that occurred during the war.
According to recent studies, Florida ranks third in the nation in the number of homeless people, yet has one of the highest numbers of homeless veterans.The Florida Department of Children & Families determined that 17.3-18.4%of Florida's homeless are veterans & the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) reported the number to be 19,394. In 2005, roughly 3,000 new homeless vets were enrolled into Florida DVA homeless programs. In 2008, the number of homeless vets in Florida on any given night was 19,000 according to local homeless coalitions.
Homeless Veterans - Specifics
Males account for 97-98% of the homeless veteran population
56% are African American or Hispanic
76% experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems (inc PTSD)
45% suffer from mental illness
50% have substance abuse problems
More than 67% served our country for at least three years
33% were stationed in a war zone
47% of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam Era
17% served after the Vietnam era
15% served before Vietnam Many of our homeless veterans served in WW II, Korean War, Cold War,Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, Desert Storm & the military's anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America.
Comparison to Non-Veteran Homeless
Homeless vets tend to be older - 46% are age 45 or older compared to 20% of non-veterans
Homeless vets are more educated - 85% completed High School or have a GED compared to 56% of non-veterans
46% are white males compared to 34% of non-veterans Why They Are Homeless
Veterans become homeless for the same reasons non-veterans become homeless, including due to the rising foreclosure and unemployment rates, as well as due to veteran specific issues.
Severe shortage of affordable housing, livable income, & access to health care
Drug and alcohol abuse problems
Physical and mental illness
Combat related physical & mental illnesses (e.g., PTSD)
Reduction in educational benefits
Lack of adequate family and social support OIF/OEF Veterans
300 vets who returned from serving in Iraq (OIF or Operation Iraqi Freedom) & Afghanistan (OEF or Operation Enduring Freedom) sought assistance for homelessness between 2004 & 2006. In May 2008 U.S. Medicine reported that at least 1,500 veterans of OEF/OIF are homeless & many expect this number to continue to rise. The NCHV's Iraq Veteran Project reported that OIF/OEF vets are in serious danger for homelessness & chronic homelessness. One source reported that in 2007 the DVA had identified over 1,000 OIF/OEF returnees as at risk for homelessness. The Iraq Veteran Project had also found that OIF/OEF veterans are becoming homeless sooner after their return from combat than seen in previous wars. In addition to the veteran homelessness risk factors noted above,the researchers identified the following reasons for this.
Extended deployment and/or repeated deployment
Unemployment - there are three-times as many (15%) unemployed OIF/OEF veterans ages 20-24* than there are nationally (5%)
Familial disruption - around 40% of OIF/OEF veterans are from the National Guard & Reserve & these families have less access to support than families of regular service members In March 2009 the overall unemployment rate for OIF & OEF veterans 18 and older was 11.2% (one in nine are jobless) vs 8.8% for non vets in the same age group.* 15% of OIF/OEF vets ages 20-24 were unemployed in March 2009 as well
The number of homeless veterans from the Iraq/Afghanistan era are growing and some
sources believe that as men and women return from the conflicts the ranks of homeless will
swell tremendously.

There is an increasing threat to the safety of the homeless. The number of violent crimes against the homeless that have been reported* has risen drastically in the past few years. A 2006 study by the National Coalition for the Homeless found 142 violent crimes (including 20 fatal attacks) committed upon the homeless in the US. This number demonstrates a 65% increase from the number of violent attacks in the previous year and a 170% increase from their findings five years ago. The crimes documented included rape, stabbing, battery, and being set on fire. The fact that in a significant number of cases, the crimes were committed by teens and young adults, for no apparent reason other than boredom, is troubling.

Information SitesSome of the above material comes from:Circle of Friends for American VeteransFlorida Department of Children & Families Office on HomelessnessFlorida Department of Veterans AffairsNational Coalition for Homeless VeteransNational Coalition for the HomelessUnited States Department of Veterans AffairsU.S. Medicine

Something must be done to help all the homless in our nation. No man women or child deserves to be homeless. We must try to assist them all.

The men and women who wore military uniforms deserve better treatment from our government. Again, promises made should be promises kept. Do the right thing for our veterans.

Jerald Terwilliger
Vice Chairman
American Cold War Veterans, Inc.
"We Remember"