It’s no secret that many veterans have trouble adapting to everyday life once they return home from service; however what’s astounding is some homeless veterans living on our streets today. An estimated 49,933 homeless veterans roam our streets, approximately 8.6 percent of the entire homeless population.*
So what can be done to combat this and how can we help?
All over the country, there are many support and volunteer groups aimed at bringing awareness and aid to the homeless veteran community. There are also federal programs which can provide assistance to homeless veterans such as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. These two federal programs work together to provide favorable lending situations for veterans looking to buy a home; making it easier and cheaper for them to acquire a roof over their heads.
Veterans can also look into mental health programs sponsored by both local and federal governments. Things like post-traumatic stress disorder and substance abuse disorder go hand-in-hand with veteran homelessness and veterans difficulty adapting to society. Even if a veteran is provided with a home, these other issues need to be addressed otherwise they can end up back on the streets rather quickly.
The VA also introduced the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program which is aimed at working in conjunction with the Department of Housing and Urban Development to end homelessness among veterans. In its first two years, the program aided almost 100,000 individuals in over 61,000 households. It was reported that only 9.4 percent of veterans returned to homelessness after being housed their first year and 15.5 percent returned to homelessness after their second year of being housed. The program’s goal is to not only provide homes for these veterans and their families but also to provide a legitimate long-term solution to their homeless-behavioral habits.
The good news is that homeless numbers within the veteran population are decreasing. Local communities are making commitments to end homelessness within the veteran community, and in January 2015 New Orleans became the first major city to announce that it had ended veteran homelessness. The first lady received pledges from 355 mayors, seven governors, and 112 county and city officials to end veteran homelessness in their local communities.**
As homelessness within veterans continues to shrink, programs like the ones started by the federal government will continue to play a huge role. However, the solution to the problem will ultimately fall on the veterans’ shoulders. The desire to seek help and live a better life must be present within them. They may also need to address mental health issues in conjunction with their homelessness to see real success. It would be a shame for a veteran who took advantage of a government program like the ones mentioned above, only to return to homelessness a year or two later. Society needs to understand that this is a problem with many facets that need to be addressed and that homelessness was just the result of some other serious issues.