FAQ about Homeless Veterans
Who are homeless veterans?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states the nation’s homeless veterans are predominantly
male, with roughly five percent being female. The majority of them are single; come from urban areas;
and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. About one-third
of the adult homeless population are veterans.
America’s homeless veterans have served in World War II, the Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War,
Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq (OEF/OIF), and the military’s anti-drug cultivation
efforts in South America. Nearly half of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam era. Two-thirds
served our country for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone.
of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting
for 12.8 percent and 15.4 percent of the U.S. population respectively.
About 1.5 million other veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack
of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.
How many homeless veterans are there?
Although flawless counts are impossible to come by – the transient nature of homeless populations
presents a major difficulty – VA estimates that
veterans are homeless on any given night. Over
the course of a year, approximately twice that many experience homelessness. Only eight percent of the
general population can claim veteran status, but nearly one-fifth of the homeless population are veterans.
Why are veterans homeless?
In addition to the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness – extreme shortage of affordable
housing, livable income and access to health care – a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live
with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are
compounded by a lack of family and social support networks.
A top priority for homeless veterans is secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment
free of drugs and alcohol.
Although “most homeless people are single, unaffiliated men… most housing money in existing federal
homelessness programs, in contrast, is devoted to helping homeless families or homeless women with
dependant children,” as is stated in the study “Is Homelessness a Housing Problem?” (
Homelessness: New Policy and Research Perspectives
, Fannie Mae Foundation, 1997).
Doesn’t VA take care of homeless veterans?
To a certain extent, yes. VA’s specialized homeless programs served more than 92,000 veterans in 2009,
which is highly commendable. This still leaves well over 100,000 more veterans, however, who
experience homelessness annually and must seek assistance from local government agencies and