Veteran Homelessness

Today the AP has an article about the great many veterans who are among the homeless in this country:

Like many of the estimated 500,000 veterans who will become homeless at some point this year, Marsh had the “Army of one” mentality that the armed forces demand…

…Veterans account for nearly one-third of all homeless men in America, even though the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says they comprise only 13 percent of adult males in the general population. In West Virginia, where Marsh now struggles to rebuild his life, one in nine people is a veteran — the highest per capita rate in the nation in the 2000 census.

…Pete Dougherty, the VA’s director of homeless programs in Washington, says there are two kinds of homeless people: Some are short-timers, driven to the streets by pure economics. Others have psychiatric or substance abuse problems that contribute to chronic homelessness, meaning they are homeless for more than a year or four times within three years.

Veterans are twice as likely as other people to be chronically homeless…

Time Magazine wrote that:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has confirmed that there are 38 homeless vets from the Iraq campaign alone, …168,000-plus soldiers have been discharged after serving there

The US Census Bureau states that:

Poverty Low Among Veterans

Poverty rates were low among veterans for every period of service. Overall, 5.6 percent of veterans lived in poverty in 1999, compared with 10.9 percent of the U.S. adult population in general.

I am curious to know what the truth is here. I am sure that this will be one of the left’s constant criticisms of the “War on Terror” but I wondered what was the truth?

Here are a couple statistics that grabbed as I researched this some more:

From the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

-The vast majority are single, most come from poor, disadvantaged communities, 45% suffer from mental illness, and half have substance abuse problems.

-Despite the overrepresentation of veterans in the homeless population, homelessness among veterans is not clearly related to combat military experience. Rather, studies show that homeless veterans appear less likely to have served in combat than housed veterans.

-Similarly, despite the widespread perception that Vietnam-era veterans constitute the majority of homeless veterans, research indicates that the veterans who are at greatest risk of homelessness are those who served during the late Vietnam and post-Vietnam era (Rosenheck, 1996). According to NCHV, 47% served during the Vietnam Era and 17% served post Vietnam. These veterans had little exposure to combat, but appear to have increased rates of mental illness and addiction disorders.

-Female homeless veterans represent an estimated 2% of homeless veterans.

Minorities are overrepresented among homeless veterans, just as they are among the homeless population in general. However, there is some evidence that veteran status reduces vulnerability to homelessness among Black Americans. (Black nonveterans are 2.9 times more likely to be homeless than white nonveterans; Black veterans, on the other hand, are 1.4 times more likely to be homeless than white veterans.)


-23% of homeless population are veterans and 33% of male homeless population are veterans

-67% served three or more years

-33% stationed in war zone

-89% received Honorable Discharge

-79% reside in central cities

-76% experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems

It is tragic when any one ends up homeless most especially our veterans. There is a high incidence of drugs, alcohol and mental illness and homelessness as most of us expect. Veterans have a much greater chance to end up living above the poverty line. There is also a low number of homeless veterans who have seen combat while they were serving. (That seemed particularly interesting to me) It is also interesting to see that black males have a lower likelihood of becoming homeless if they served in the military. I do hope that our veterans get the services that they deserve. I trust that our current administration is doing their best to insure this.

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