Who are homeless veterans?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states that the nation’s homeless veterans are predominantly male, with roughly 9% being female. The majority are single; live in urban areas; and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. About 11% of the adult homeless population are veterans.
Roughly 45% of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 10.4% and 3.4% of the U.S. veteran population, respectively.
Homeless veterans are younger on average than the total veteran population. Approximately 9% are between the ages of 18 and 30, and 41% are between the ages of 31 and 50. Conversely, only 5% of all veterans are between the ages of 18 and 30, and less than 23% are between 31 and 50.
America’s homeless veterans have served in World War II, the Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq (OEF/OIF), and the military’s anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America. Nearly half of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam era. Two-thirds served our country for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone.
About 1.4 million other veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.*
*information from National Coalition of Homeless Veterans
How can you help raise awareness?
- Learn about homeless veterans in your area. Identify needs of the homeless veteran population by contacting local community organizations like Black Hawk County Veterans Affairs, Hawkeye Area Action program, Goodwill of Northeast Iowa or us here at AFIL.
- Ask these organizations about their homeless veterans programs and identify how you can help.
- Hold a fundraiser in support of the needs of homeless veterans.
- Advertise the Department of Veterans Affairs help line for homeless veterans in homeless shelters, community centers, local hospitals, and mental health service facilities. The helpline is 1-800-4AIDVET. It is a free, confidential hotline that pairs homeless veterans and their families with trained counselors who are able to refer veterans to services in their area.
- Contact your local and state representative in person, by mail, phone, or email. Ask them to keep veteran legislation on their agendas.
- The Department of Veterans Affairs also has founded a nation suicide prevention hotline to ensure veterans in emotional crisis have free 24/7 access to trained counselors. The Veteran Crisis Line is 1-800-273-8255. You can download web ads and materials to get the word out.