How can we honor veterans?

written by Kathryn Monet
November 10, 2016

Veterans Day is a time to honor the military service of the many men and women who served in our armed forces. While many return to civilian life with few challenges, some are not so lucky; On a single night in 2016, almost 40,000 veterans experienced homelessness.

Here at the Alliance, we believe that ending veteran homelessness is one of the best ways to honor their service.

Partnerships have worked

We have seen substantial decreases in veteran homelessness over the last several years because of successful partnerships between the Department of Veterans Affairs-funded grantees and community partners, in conjunction with VA healthcare. The Obama Administration made unprecedented investments in VA’s continuum of homeless programs, to great results.

While VA’s healthcare system may not be perfect, it is unclear that these successes would have occurred without the ability to harness the screenings, services and data that have been a hallmark of the Veteran Health Administration’s focus on integrated patient-centered care. 

These investments must continue in order to avoid regressing back to an era where homelessness was managed and not proactively ended.  

The cost of veteran homelessness can be high—high both in terms of personal costs to individual veterans, and in terms of costs to taxpayers for funneling additional funding to the VA health care system. In fact, the literal price tag can be quite high. Hospitalization, medical treatment, incarceration, police intervention, and emergency shelter expenses can add up quickly, making homelessness surprisingly expensive for the federal government and taxpayers.

What governments, landlords and individuals can do

At a time when the political leadership of our country is in transition, there are a few things you can do to be a part of the solution.

If you are a part of state government:

  •  Check out our newly released guide on how State Departments of Veterans Affairs have been collaborating to end veteran homelessness

If you are a landlord:

  • Consider renting one or more of your units to a veteran exiting homelessness. USICH and First Lady Michelle Obama explain why that is important.

If you are an interested citizen:

  • If you know a veteran who is homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness, connect them with VA and its dedicated housing services. Help them call VA’s Homeless Veterans hotline at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838) or utilize the hotline’s confidential online chat feature.
  • Learn about and support ongoing efforts to end veteran homelessness in your community. VA has a list of ten practical things you can do to get involved in these efforts, and our partners at the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans have created a list as well.
  • Contact your local legislators and ask them to support the continuity of these efforts through continued Federal funding and oversight of these efforts.

Last, but most certainly not least, if you are a veteran, we are grateful for your service and sacrifice today, and every day. We salute you, and will continue our daily efforts to honor your service through our work with communities to serve the most vulnerable among you.