What will the End of Veteran Homelessness Look Like?

written by Ian Lisman
March 14, 2013

The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) recently released a report on veteran homelessness and it’s impressive (here’s why): The report is forward-looking; it envisions a future era in which we have reached our goal of ending veteran homelessness and have shifted our focus to prevention. The report also looks at the seldom discussed issue of veterans who are ineligible for VA services.

This report backs up this vision of the future with data projections and models. Of all the models, by far the most aggressive and most interesting is the Eliminate Veteran Homelessness Analytic Model. This tool was developed by our friends at the National Center on Homelessness among Veterans.

Using this model, we see that, if we continue our current federal funding levels (the “status quo”) for veteran homelessness systems, we could still have more than 40,000 veterans experiencing homelessness in 2016. Compare that to the numbers we reach if we increase federal funding, (USICH calls for 20,000 HUD-VASH vouchers and ongoing annual funding of SSVF and continued smart targeting of resources):  

10,000 or fewer homeless veterans. (Presumably, those 10,000 would be a population of veterans in the process of transitioning out of homeless).

In the report, USICH also looks at the needs of these veterans who are ineligible for VA benefits, pointing to a study of a New York City population of homeless veterans in which as many as 32 percent were ineligible for VA homeless services.

Many veterans are not eligible for VA services, often because of the type of discharge they received. In some cases, these are veterans who received disciplinary actions, including less than honorable discharges, because of mental health conditions that were not recognized as such at the time.

While USICH doesn’t posit any solutions to this thorny problem in the report, it’s notable that the issue is even mentioned at all. It’s a complex and divisive issue, with some people believing that men and women who received dishonorably discharges from the military don’t deserve VA benefits. But it’s a conversation we need to have, because if we are to end veteran homelessness, it’s is critical that we address this gap in services.

For anyone interested in the issue of veteran homelessness, this report is worth reading. It provides a great overview of our progress so far, and examines what we need to do if we are to continue, and even accelerate, our progress toward an end to veteran homelessness.