Stand Down's Information Page about Homeless Veterans
"There should be no man left behind.
There will be no man left behind as long as we are this Nation"

Roy Foster, Executive Director & Founder FHLC, Inc.

The information on this page has been compiled from various sources. Credit is
given when possible and links to the sites of origin have been provided below.

For many reasons it is difficult to fully account for the actual number of homeless
(including veterans) in the US. Many sleep in their cars, in the woods, or other
hard to locate areas, and many veterans do not use VA / VA affiliated services.
The difficulty in accurately counting the homeless is compounded by the fact
that the numbers do not include those living with others due to economic need
or in motels due to lack of adequate housing. Furthermore, the definition of
homeless is in itself problematic. For example, some definitions, & therefore
statistics, exclude those who are in prison or jail and those residing in housing
for the homeless. Many of our incarcerated veterans are homeless. There
is not a national database to help track our homeless vet. Most available
statistics don't include the many that are at risk of becoming homeless.

Approximately 1/3 of homeless adults (one out of every three) in this country
are veterans, yet veterans represent only 11% of the civilian population. On
any given night 107,000 - 300,000 veterans are homeless. Based on various
estimates, 500,000 - 840,000 veterans are homeless at some time during the
year. It has been estimated that Iraq & Afghanistan veterans represent 1.8%
of the homeless veteran population. In 2008, 44% of those surveyed reported
being homeless for the first time. This number was 37% in 2007. According
to the Department of Veterans Affairs the number of homeless Vietnam era
veterans exceeds the number of fatalities that occurred during the war.

Recent studies revealed that almost one-half of all homeless veterans were
located in Florida, California, Texas & New York, while only 28% of all
veterans were located in those same states. According to some studies,
Florida ranks third in the nation in the number of homeless people, yet
has one of the highest numbers of homeless veterans. The Florida
Dept. of Children & Families has estimated that 17.3-18.4% of
Florida's homeless are veterans. In 2008, the number of homeless
veterans in Florida on any given night was ~ 19,000 .

Homeless Veterans

  • Males account for 97-98% of the homeless veteran population
  • 56% are African American or Hispanic
  • 76% experience alcohol, drug, or mental health problems (inc PTSD)
  • 45% suffer from mental illness
  • 50% have substance abuse problems
  • More than 67% served our country for at least three years
  • 33% were stationed in a war zone
  • 47% of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam Era
  • 17% served after the Vietnam era
  • 15% served before Vietnam
  • An increasing percentage served in the wars in Iraq & Afghanistan
  • These numbers may not accurately reflect the impact of OIF/OEF and/or OIF/OEF stats.
    Many of our homeless veterans served in WW II, Korean War, Cold War,
    Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Operation Iraqi Freedom,
    Operation Enduring Freedom, Desert Storm & the military's anti-drug
    cultivation efforts in South America.

    Comparison to Non-Veteran Homeless

  • Homeless vets tend to be older - 46% are age 45 or older
    compared to 20% of non-veterans
  • Homeless vets are more educated - 85% completed High School
    or have a GED compared to 56% of non-veterans
  • 46% are white males compared to 34% of non-veterans
  • Why Veterans Are Homeless

    Veterans become homeless & are at risk for homelessness for the same
    reasons as non-veterans, including due to the rising foreclosure* and
    unemployment rates, as well as due to veteran specific issues. Mental
    Health issues (e.g., PTSD, mood disorders & substance use) have been
    deemed among the primary risks for homelessness among veterans.**

  • Severe shortage of affordable housing, livable income,
    & access to health care
  • Drug and alcohol abuse problems
  • Physical and mental illness
  • Combat related physical & mental illnesses (e.g., PTSD, TBI)
  • Reduction in educational benefits
  • Lack of adequate family and social support
  • Veteran unemployment rates are higher than non-veterans,
    especially those who joined post 9/11.
  • The effects of PTSD, including addiction, interpersonal problems & job loss,
    were also associated with homelessness. The effects of combat exposure do
    not disappear as the years go by. Recent studies reveal that 10% of Vietnam
    veterans still suffer from severe PTSD symptoms & that their combat exposure
    continues to place them at risk for negative social & psychological consequences.

    *Foreclosure rates in military communities increased at four times the national average in early 2008.
    **See below for relevant OIF/OEF veteran statistics.

    Operation Iraqi Freedom & Operation Enduring Freedom

    More than two million Americans have served in Iraq & Afghanistan, almost
    half have had repeated deployments, and most are younger than 35 when
    they return home from service. Studies show that only 51% of eligible OIF &
    OEF war veterans have sought care through the VA since the wars began,
    due in part to a reluctance to use VA services & fear of being stigmatized.
    In May 2008 U.S. Medicine reported that at least 1,500 OIF & OEF
    veterans were homeless & in 2011 the number of homeless OIF & OEF
    veterans was more than 9,000. OIF & OEF vets are becoming homeless
    sooner after their return from combat than seen in previous wars.
    They often have no place to live within 18 months after coming home,
    compared to the 10 years on average it took for Vietnam vets.

    The NCHV's Iraq Veteran Project & others have reported that OIF/OEF
    vets are in serious danger for homelessness & chronic homelessness.
    One source reported that in 2007 the DVA had identified more than 1,000
    OIF/OEF at risk veterans. In addition to the veteran homelessness
    risk factors noted above, they identified the following reasons for this.

  • Extended deployment and/or repeated deployment *
  • Higher unemployment rates than civilian counterparts
    See below for statistics
  • Familial disruption - around 40% of OIF/OEF veterans are from the
    National Guard & Reserve & these families have less access
    to support than families of regular service members
  • *A recent study reported that since 2001 more than 1.6 million US soldiers have
    served & many of them had repeated deployments and exposure to combat.
    OIF/OEF Unemployment

    Statistics on OIF/OEF veteran unemployment vary by year & by study.
    Regardless of which numbers you use the picture is dismal. While the
    job market is slowly improving for most Americans it is getting worse
    for Gulf War II vets, according to Bureau of Labor (BOL) statistics.

  • According to the BOL, in 2011 the unemployment rate
    among veterans of OIF & OEF ages 18-24 was 33.2%
    (up from 2010) compared to the national rate of 14.9%
    (down from 2010) for nonvets in the same age group
  • One in three veterans ages 18-24 were jobless the last
    quarter of 2011 (one in five were the last quarter of 2010)
  • According to the BOL, in 2011 the unemployment rate
    among female veterans who served since Sept. 2001
    was 16.8% (up from 2010) compared to 7.8% (slightly
    down from 2010) for their civilian counterparts
  • 13.1% of all OIF & OEF veterans were jobless
    in December 2011
  • Nearly 22% of female veterans (~50,000) who served
    during both wars were unemployed in December 2011.
  • OIF/OEF Mental Health

    PTSD & traumatic brain injury (TBI), the signature wound of our current wars,
    make it harder for our new veterans to readjust into society. The DVA estimates
    that as many as 95% of returning OIF & OEF veterans have some form of PTSD.
    One study found PTSD severe enough to cause serious functional impairment in
    one in ten OIF veterans. It has been estimated that 1/3 of all OIF/OEF vets & soldiers
    suffered a TBI. While the actual total is unknown for many reasons, the DOD estimates
    it to be under 50,000. Some sources estimate the number to be more than 300,000.

    Soldiers often need Mental Health assistance after they return from Iraq or
    Afghanistan. Recent results from mandatory surveys indicate that 20.3% of
    active-component troops & 42.4% of Guard & Reserve troops were found to
    be in need of mental health care. All will face readjustment difficulties &
    issues, regardless of if they develop more serious mental disorders or not.

    Between 2002 & 2008 almost 290,000 OIF & OEF vets entered into
    the VAMC system. A study of these veterans revealed that:

  • 36.9% received mental health diagnoses
  • 29% received 2 different diagnoses
  • 33% received 3 or more diagnoses
  • Of the nearly 37% 21.8% were diagnosed with
    PTSD, 17.4% with depression, 7% with alcohol
    use disorder, & 3% with drug use disorder
  • Men were at twice the risk for drug use than women
  • Active duty vets under 25 had higher rates of PTSD,
    alcohol & drug use disorder than those vets over 40
  • 43% received diagnoses when mental health disorders &
    psychosocial problems such as homelessness were included
  • 14.6% of the vets who came in from January to March of 2004
    were diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Almost 28%
    of these same vets received diagnoses in 2008.


    Females make up 14-15 % of the US active-duty force & 14% of veterans &
    the percentage of women in the military has doubled in the last 30 years. ~10%
    of all service members currently serving in Afghanistan are female. In Sept.
    2010 the number of female veterans in the US & PR was more than
    1,840,380. Florida, with 140,256 women veterans, was one of five states
    with the highest numbers. As the female veteran population grows, so
    will the number that will be at high risk of becoming homeless.

    Since 2001 ~ one-half of all active duty & reserve females have deployed to the
    current conflicts. 280,000 of the more than 2.3 million troops who have served
    in operations over the past decade are female (including the 41,000 women
    were deployed during the Gulf Wa). Females make up ~11% of OIF/OEF vets
    and 15% of returning troops. According to Swords to Plowshares "the total
    number of women who have served in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters
    is more than double Operation Desert Storm and Vietnam combined."

    More than 144 female service members have been killed & 865 have been
    wounded in combat and noncombat incidents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    Approx. 40% of active duty women have children & 11% are single mothers.

  • 6,500 - 7,000 female war veterans in the US are homeless
    - double the number of a decade ago
  • Women are four times more likely to become homeless than their male counterparts
  • One in 10 (~ 9%) of homeless vets under the age of 45 is female
  • There are twice as many homeless female vets under 45 years old than over 45
  • Approximately 21% of homeless OIF & OEF veterans are women
  • Relevant Information

  • Studies indicate that women were more likely than men
    to meet the criteria for PTSD after returning home
  • One in three females reported being raped or sexually assaulted while serving
  • In December 2011 nearly 22% of female veterans who served
    during both wars were unemployed (see above for more info)
  • They are younger than their male peers

  • Homeless Veteran Outreach

    Who & What Helps Homeless Veterans

    The DVA reportedly serves more than 100,000 homeless veterans each year.
    Even as the largest federal provider of direct assistance to the homeless that
    is just a percentage of the number of vets who are homeless at some time
    during the year & it has been surmised that they reach only 25% of homeless
    vets each year. Since 1987 their homeless veterans programs have stressed
    collaboration with community service providers.

    According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans a "top priority
    is secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment which is
    free of drugs and alcohol." They state that "veterans need a coordinated
    effort that provides secure housing and nutritional meals; essential physical
    health care, substance abuse aftercare & mental health counseling; &
    personal development and empowerment. Veterans also need job
    assessment, training and placement assistance . . . helping veterans
    reach the point where they can obtain & sustain employment."

    The most effective programs for homeless veterans, according to the
    National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, are "community-based, nonprofit,
    veterans helping veterans groups. Programs that seem to work best feature
    transitional housing with the camaraderie of living in structured, substance-free
    environments with fellow veterans who are succeeding at bettering themselves.
    Because government money for homeless veterans is currently limited . . .
    it is critical that community groups reach out to help provide the
    support, resources and opportunities most Americans take for granted:
    housing, employment & health care."

    They believe these groups are most successful when they work in collaboration
    with government agencies (Federal, State, and/or local) & veteran service
    organizations and that "veterans who participate in these programs have a
    higher chance of becoming tax-paying, productive citizens again."

    Stand Down is a place like that described above.

    According to Peter H. Dougherty, Director of Homeless Veterans Programs for
    the Department Veterans Affairs, VA residential care programs like Stand Down
    are successful. Preliminary studies show that four out of five veterans who have
    completed these programs remain suitably housed one year after discharge.

    Information Sites
    Some of the above material comes from:
    American Journal of Public Health
    Circle of Friends for American Veterans
    Florida Department of Children & Families Office on Homelessness
    Florida Department of Veterans Affairs
    Focus Online News for Harvard Medical, Dental, & Public Health Schools
    National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
    National Coalition for the Homeless
    United States Department of Veterans Affairs
    U.S. Medicine

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    Page updated February 24, 2012