Veterans and Homelessness

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[Excerpt] The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan brought renewed attention to the needs of veterans, including the needs of homeless veterans. Homeless veterans initially came to the country’s attention in the 1970s and 1980s, when homelessness generally was becoming a more prevalent and noticeable phenomenon. The first section of this report defines the term “homeless veteran,” discusses attempts to estimate the number of veterans who are homeless, and presents the results of studies regarding the demographic characteristics of homeless veterans as well as those served in VA homeless programs. At the same time that the number of homeless persons began to grow, it became clear through various analyses of homeless individuals that homeless veterans were overrepresented in the homeless population. The second section of this report summarizes the available research regarding the overrepresentation of both male and female veterans, who have been found to be present in greater percentages in the homeless population than their percentages in the general population. This section also reviews research regarding possible explanations for why homeless veterans have been overrepresented. In response to the issue of homelessness among veterans, the federal government has created numerous programs to fund services, transitional housing, and permanent housing specifically for homeless veterans. The third section of this report discusses these programs. The majority of programs are funded through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Within the VA, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), which is responsible for the health care of veterans, operates all but one of the programs for homeless veterans. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), which is responsible for compensation, pensions, educational assistance, home loan guarantees, and insurance, operates the other. In addition, the Department of Labor (DOL) and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) operate programs for homeless veterans. Several issues regarding homelessness among veterans have become prominent since the beginning of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fourth section of this report discusses three of these issues. The first is the VA’s plan to end homelessness among veterans. A second issue is ensuring that an adequate transition process exists for returning veterans to assist them with issues that might put them at risk of homelessness. Third is the concern that adequate services might not exist to serve the needs of women veterans. This report will be updated when new statistical information becomes available and to reflect programmatic changes.
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veterans; homelessness; housing; social services
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