Homelessness among United States veterans is a widespread concern, cutting across demographics. There are estimated to be about 50,000 homeless veterans on any given night with about 1.4 million others at risk of becoming homeless, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
The plight affects both male and female veterans, with female vets representing about eight percent of homeless veterans in the country. Homeless vets represent all age groups, but more than 40 percent are between ages 31 and 50.
Here are 10 facts about veteran homelessness you might not know.
1. Higher Risk of Homelessness
Veterans have twice the risk of becoming chronically homeless as other Americans. Homeless veterans from the Vietnam War era outnumber the soldiers who died during that war, according to Veterans, Inc. Female vets are four times more likely to become homeless than male vets.
2. Vietnam War
Nearly half of homeless veterans served the military during the Vietnam War, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. Homeless veterans even date back to World War II, the coalition noted. They also represent U.S. military efforts in Korea, Grenada, Lebanon, the Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq.
3. Young Homeless Veterans
The number of younger homeless veterans accounts for less than nine percent of the veteran population. However, their numbers are increasing, the coalition said.
4. More at Risk
Some 1.4 million vets are considered at risk for homelessness stemming from substandard housing, poverty, and lack of help from family or social support networks. Veterans face a shortage of affordable housing and difficulty in obtaining health care.
5. Skills Gap
Many veterans fall into homelessness or poverty because the skills they learned in the military aren’t transferable for the civilian workforce.
Post-traumatic stress disorder, known as PTSD, and substance abuse contribute to problems that lead to homelessness or risk of homelessness for veterans.
More than 40,000 homeless vets receive some type of compensation or pension benefits, but it is still not enough to find secure, affordable housing in a safe environment, the coalition said.
8. Community Support
Community-based groups and programs play a big role in returning vets to a normal lifestyle because government services are limited or at capacity. Money and resources from the government are also limited.
9. Improved Statistics
The good news is that there was a 33-percent decline in veteran homelessness between 2010 and January 2014, according to a report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. The estimated figures show 49,933 homeless veterans, a drop of 24,837. There was also a nearly 40 percent drop in homeless veterans sleeping on the street.
Along with difficulty in readjusting to civilian life, lack of education, and substance abuse problems, causes contributing to veteran homelessness include combat-related physical and mental health issues, weak social networks, and lack of services for help in the areas where returning vets live, Veterans Inc. said.
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