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Report Recommends Plan to End Vet Homelessness
$6.4 Billion Program Would Reduce Homeless Vet Population by 25%
11/08/2007 09:53 AM ET
CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 30: A passerby drops some loose change into the can of a homeless, disabled veteran in his wheelchair looking for money along the shopping area known as the 'Magnificent Mile' on Michigan Ave.
Tim Boyle/AFP/Getty
CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 30: A passerby drops some loose change into the can of a homeless, disabled veteran in his wheelchair looking for money along the shopping area known as the 'Magnificent Mile' on Michigan Ave.

Nearly a half a million veterans spent at least one night sleeping on the streets during 2006, a troubling statistic that does not have to be if the US government would devote resources to ending the problem of homelessness among vets, according to a new report by the The Homelessness Research Institute, the research and education arm of the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

The report "Vital Mission: Ending Homelessness Among Veterans" includes the following findings:

* In 2006, approximately 195,827 veterans were homeless on a given night—an increase of 0.8 percent from 194,254 in 2005. More veterans experience homeless over the course of the year. We estimate that 495,400 were homeless in 2006.

* Veterans make up a disproportionate share of homeless people. They represent roughly 26 percent of homeless people, but only 11 percent of the civilian population 18 years and older. This is true despite the fact that veterans are better educated, more likely to be employed, and have a lower poverty rate than the general population.

* A number of states, including Louisiana, California, and Missouri, had high rates of homeless veterans. In addition, the District of Columbia had a high rate of homelessness among veterans with approximately 7.5 percent of veterans experiencing homelessness.

* In 2005, approximately 44,000 to 64,000 veterans were chronically homeless (i.e., homeless for long periods or repeatedly and with a disability).

The report determines that the lack of affordable housing leads many vets to homelessness, with the problem more pervasive among females, those with a disability, and unmarried or separated vets. Those who had served in World War II and the Korean War also had a higher incidence of severe housing costs burden.

Overall, the report estimates that approximately 89,553 to 467,877 veterans were at risk of homelessness, which is defined as living below the poverty level and paying more than 50 percent of household income on rent.

“These findings highlight the need to provide veterans with the proper housing and supportive services to prevent homelessness from occurring in the first place. If we can do that, then we can greatly reduce the number of homeless veterans in general,” said Nan Roman, President of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “We recognize that ending homelessness among veterans is a significant yet achievable goal. The report outlines some preliminary policy steps that can be taken to shift our course so that no veteran is homeless.”

The organization recommends US policymakers undertake a major initiative to attack the problem:

* Establish a risk assessment process during the first 30 days of discharge and pilot a homelessness prevention program.

* Create permanent supportive housing options for veterans.

* Expand rental assistance for veterans.

The NAEH reports that full adoption of these recommendations would have the potential to end homelessness for 45,000 vets--reducing the population living on the streets by 25%--and could prevent thousands more from ever becoming homeless.

Such a program would cost the federal government an estimated $6.4 billion to enact, slightly less than the monthly expense of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read the full report: file_Vital_Mission_November_8.pdf

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