Ending Homelessness for our Veterans

written by naehblog
November 10, 2009

Today, the Alliance officially releases our 2008 Data Update to Vital Mission: Ending Homelessness Among Veterans!

You can find the official report on our website, and check out our (very first!) social media release on the report, complete with links to the older reports, a video explaining data, and a couple of pictures, too!

So what does the report say?

Well, the headliner is the number: 131,000 homeless veterans on a given night in the United States. At first glance, that’s good news – last year the number was 154,000. But the decrease is being mostly attributed to methodology, and not an increase in effective programs, prevention, or intervention. In fact, community counts of homeless veterans as well as the numbers kept by VA medical center of homeless veterans served both show increases.

The report also highlights some interesting demographic data: as we’ve all seen in news coverage of veterans, we’re seeing an increase in homeless women veterans, as well as difficulties in handling the specific needs of the female homeless veteran population. And here’s something else I learned yesterday: The veteran population is 85 percent Caucasian and 10 percent African American. Thehomeless veteran population is 46 percent Caucasian and 45 percent African American. The other races and ethnic groups that make up the rest of the population – around ten percent – show marginal difference between the veterans and homeless veterans groups, but not enough of a different to make a whole lot of hay. It’s the black/white number that really stands out.

So what are we going to do about it?

There’s good news and there’s – challenging – news. The good news is that we have the tools and resources to fight veterans homelessness. The Alliance staff here has spent weeks and weeks preparing for the release of this report and I have learned in that time that we know how to end veterans homelessness. Also good: Secretary Shinseki and the Administration have publicly committed to ending veterans homelessness in five years – in fact, they just hosted a big national summitaddressing just this very issue.

But (and this is the challenging part), as with all things, ending veterans homelessness is going to take more than just talk. Veterans make up roughly one-fifth of the entire homeless population, and homeless veterans tend to have emotional, behavioral and physical disabilities.

But we have to start somewhere. And this is what the Alliance recommends up front:

  • Congress has committed to provide housing and resources to 20,000 of the poorest and most disabled homeless veterans – let’s make sure that funding is distributed quickly and appropriately.
  • Existing permanent supportive housing programs have proven to successfully house veterans. Let’s commit to expanding the availability of such units, which link veterans to the medical and behavioral health services necessary to receive the care they need.
  • Congress continues to debate a multitude of proposals aimed at ending veterans homelessness. Let’s make sure that Congress approves what we know works for our country’s veterans: homelessness prevention, rapid re-housing, and thorough outreach to those most vulnerable.
  • The VA stands at the helm of this fight as the agency closest to returning veterans and most capable of offering assistance. Let’s make sure that Congress charges them with the clear responsibility – and all the necessary tools – to get the job done.

In an address he gave on April 9 of this year, President Obama assured American soldiers that, “When you come home to America, America will be there for you.”

Let’s make good on our promise.