When people encounter a homeless person in parks or on the streets, they may be shocked to learn that the person they are looking at may have actually served their country in the Armed Forces. In the US, according to the homeless advocacy organization Green Doors, although only eight percent of the American population qualifies for veteran status, as much as 17 percent of the homeless population is made up of veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reported that as many as 76,000 veterans were homeless and living on the streets in 2010.
Statistics on Homeless Veterans
Statistics show that veterans are 50 percent more likely to become homeless than the rest of the American population. Veterans often lack support and suffer from social isolation after being discharged from the service. The divorce rate among veterans is very high so that many veterans live alone. Many veterans are living below the poverty level and paying more than 50 percent of their household income on rent, making them more at risk for homelessness. The incidence of homeless female veterans is also rising. In 2006, there were 150 homeless female veterans and, in 2011, that number rose to 2011. Half of the homeless veterans suffer from mental illness and two-thirds suffer from substance abuse. Many homeless veterans suffer from what is known as dual-diagnosis where they have been diagnosed with both mental illness and substance abuse. Veterans spend, on average, six years homeless compared to four years for non-veteran homeless.
Department of Veterans Affairs
The VA offers many specialized homeless veterans services, such as healthcare and job training. The department provides services to more than 250,000 veterans throughout the country. However, it is difficult for the VA to manage all the factors that can cause a veteran to become homeless, which is why they enter into partnerships with other organizations to provide assistance to those who have served the country but are now living on the streets.
There are many available that provide assistance to homeless veterans. Volunteers for these organizations work with the veterans to help them find jobs, get transportation and eventually find housing that they can afford. Some of the organizations who provide these services include:
The Bob Parsons Veterans Center – created by the founder of GoDaddy, this center offers academic advising, guidance on financial aid and counseling to veterans at the University of Baltimore. Parsons created the center at his alma mater in an effort to repay the Marine Corps for what they did for him as a young man.
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans – a network of community-based service providers at the local, state and national level that provide housing, food and other services to homeless veterans.
Volunteers of America – since World War I, this group has provided direct services to veterans while also providing them with resources that can help them get back on their feet.
Volunteering for one of these worthwhile organizations offers individuals a way to repay a service man or woman for their service to the country. By providing veterans with the tools they need to succeed, the homeless veteran population can be reduced significantly.