How do we solve veteran homelessness?

While the number of homeless veterans was cut in half between 2010 and 2020, many veterans remain unhoused and Veteran homelessness continues to be a significant problem.

According to HUD’s 2021 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), nearly 20,000 veterans were experiencing sheltered homelessness (homeless and living in a shelter, transitional, or other nonpermanent housing) at the time of the report’s publication. The report did not provide statistics regarding unsheltered homelessness (sleeping on streets, in parks or in homeless encampments), although the VA’s 2020 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count states that 37,252 veterans experienced homelessness in January 2020.

Veteran homelessness statistics

Here are two more figures that illustrate the problem of veteran homelessness:

  • Sheltered veterans account for 11 out of every 10,000 veterans in the country.
  • Sheltered veterans represent 8% of all sheltered adults in the United States.

Not all the data surrounding veteran homelessness is negative, though. According to a March 2021 fact sheet published by the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and Homeless Programs Office (HPO), more than 850,000 veterans and veteran families have been “permanently housed, rapidly rehoused, or prevented from falling into homelessness through HUD’s targeted housing vouchers and VA’s homelessness programs.”

However, we must continue to ask ourselves how to solve veteran homelessness. More importantly, we as healthcare providers — both VA hospitals and private practices — should ask how we can contribute to ending veteran homelessness.

The Permanent Housing Placement National Challenge

The Permanent Housing Placement National Challenge is a step in the right direction toward solving veteran homelessness. This initiative, managed by the VA, HUD and U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), aims to rehouse at least 38,000 veterans in 2022 through grant programs, increased housing availability and supportive services for veteran families.

Here are some of the program’s stated priorities:

  1. Make ending veteran homelessness a top priority — The agencies are redirecting resources toward solving and preventing veteran homelessness.
  2. Lead with an evidence-based housing-first approach — HUD and VA are working to help veterans obtain stable housing as quickly as possible with a focus on “identifying additional vacant apartments and engaging landlords” to create more housing opportunities.
  3. Reach underserved veterans — HUD and VA are striving to connect with aging, Native American and LGBTQ+ veterans as well as those who live in rural areas or have other than honorable discharge status. This is to be achieved through an increased focus on grants, per diem programs and telehealth.
  4. Increase the supply of and access to affordable housing — This initiative recognizes that there is insufficient housing available to veterans, which it aims to correct.
  5. Ensure the delivery of quality supportive services — Helping veterans obtain housing is important, but adequate healthcare, vocational rehabilitation and geriatric services for aging veterans are also necessary. If we truly want to solve veteran homelessness, we must also provide the services that help them retain their housing.
  6. Prevent homelessness among veterans — VA and HUD are collaborating on strategies for diverting currently housed veterans from becoming homeless in the near future. The VA is expanding its rental assistance program and other programs designed to help veterans retain their housing.

Healthcare is crucial in solving veteran homelessness

At Valor Healthcare, we understand that poor health and homelessness go hand in hand.

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), roughly 26% of the homeless population in the United States suffer from some form of severe mental illness, which can make it even harder for them to find housing without assistance. Of course, poor physical health can also lead to homelessness, as it can affect a veteran’s ability to earn income and pay rent.

Therefore, when we talk about ways to solve veteran homelessness, we must ensure a focus on access to and provision of adequate healthcare resources to veterans and their families.

This means:

  • Ensuring that VA and contracted hospitals and clinics are adequately staffed to treat the veteran communities in their city.
  • Partnering with educational institutions to train more healthcare providers in veteran care.
  • Staffing VA and contracted hospitals and clinics with specialists to treat the various conditions unique to veterans.
  • Providing telehealth and other resources for the 7 million veterans living in rural communities to ensure equitable access to all healthcare services.
  • Taking steps to make all locations where veterans receive services a comfortable place for women, LGBTQ+ and other veterans in minority communities.
  • Upgrading technology to improve healthcare services for new and existing patients.

Valor Healthcare wants to help solve veteran homelessness

We can’t do it alone, but we want to help.

Valor Healthcare partners with public and private medical clinics to bring high-quality healthcare to American veterans. Partner with us to give your patients access to data-driven, 21st-century care.

We also encourage people to check out our Valor 4 Veterans charitable arm, which has partnered with #DoYouGiveARuck to raise funds to fight veteran homelessness.