Our Vendors 

America’s heroes and now America’s homeless

Wed, Nov 7, 2012

It is a fact that a significant number of men and women in the homeless system have served the United States as military personnel. The most widely cited estimate of the number of homeless veterans comes from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which produces an annual CHALENG (Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education and Networking Groups) report. In the 2009 CHALENG report the VA estimated there were 107,000 homeless veterans on any given night in America; over the course of a year, approximately twice that many experience homelessness.

In addition to the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness, a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. Military occupations and training are not always transferable to the civilian workforce, placing some veterans at a disadvantage when competing for employment.

A top priority for homeless veterans is secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol.

In a world of competing interests funding for homeless veterans is hard to come by. Data shows that the majority of homeless are single men; however, most federal housing money in existing homelessness programs is dedicated to homeless families and/or homeless women and children. As small as the funding pool is for homeless veterans, the population continues to grow.

Combat veterans from both Iraq wars and the war in Afghanistan are ending up in homeless shelters across the country. Recent veterans are seeking the help they need from the nation’s community-based homeless veteran service provider organizations. These organizations are already stressed by the combination of the increasing need for assistance by post-Vietnam-era veterans and strained budgets. The result is that homeless service providers are deeply concerned about the increasing influx of combat veterans who are requesting support.

As of mid-2010, VA estimates that there are 3,700 veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars who are in homeless-outreach programs. Of that number only 550 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been treated in VA-connected residential programs.

Homeless veterans need a coordinated effort that provides:
• Secure housing and nutritional meals;
• Job assessment, training and placement assistance;
• Physical health care, substance abuse aftercare and mental health counseling; and
• Personal development and empowerment.

The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) strongly believes that all programs to assist homeless veterans must focus on helping veterans reach the point where they can obtain and sustain gainful employment. Without gainful employment it is highly unlikely that homeless veterans will be able to find and maintain safe, decent, permanent housing.

- Jim LoBianco, StreetWise Executive Director

I would greatly appreciate your thoughts and suggestions. You are welcome to contact me at either tipline@streetwise.org or (773) 334-6600 (ext. 22).

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