Homelessness is a major problem in our country, and homeless veterans make up a large percentage of that total number. Let’s begin with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) definition of who makes up homeless veterans: “the nation’s homeless veterans are predominantly male, with roughly 9% being female…about 11% of the adult homeless population are veterans.” To put it in perspective, according to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, “on a single night in January 2019, 37,085 veterans were experiencing homelessness. 22,740 veterans were sheltered, while 14,345 veterans were unsheltered.”
These numbers are hard to look at. These are men and women, of all backgrounds, who fought to protect our country. When they returned, they were met with overwhelming problems—whether that be financial, physical, mental, or emotional. And instead of being offered support and aid, they lost homes, jobs, and more. Below, we’ll discuss some of the main reasons why many veterans are homeless. We will then provide a few ways we as civilians can provide stronger support and help to those that need it. Don’t miss out on an opportunity to help those who protected you.
When service members return from home injured, it is often their families who provide care. But if these veterans do not have families to turn to and are sent away from military hospitals, finding housing and a job can seem impossible. These physical injuries can include second- and third-degree burns, shrapnel wounds, brain and spinal cord injuries, respiratory problems, cardiac and neurological diseases, and so much more. If left untreated, and even if treated, these injuries can heavily affect whether veterans get a job, keep a job, and find a home.
Almost hand-in-hand with physical injuries are mental illnesses. Life-threatening and horrible experiences are the norm in war, and when returning home, those moments play a massive role on a veteran’s mental and emotional well-being. Though there are statistics that say about 11 to 20 of every 100 veterans have PTSD in a given year, this number is, in fact, probably much higher as many veterans keep their struggles to themselves.
These mental illnesses can take several forms and bring about many problems for veterans. It can make it harder for them to keep a job, maintain relationships with family members, and simply trust themselves. When paired with the physical injuries that often occur in war, the two are often the main causes of veteran homelessness.
Lack of Low-Cost Housing
Though this is a problem in more ways than one, today we’ll just briefly touch on how the general lack of low-cost housing makes it difficult for veterans to have safe shelter. When you combine physical injuries with mental illness and a lack of affordable housing, it becomes quite difficult for veterans to stay off the streets. If they can’t get or keep a job due to their injuries, if their mental illness has separated them from family, and there are no homes they can afford, then homelessness seems like the only option.
Now, it’s important to realize that although these are all factors of homelessness, none of it is the veterans’ fault. They cannot control that they became injured, their mental health severely declined, or the housing market is nothing close to affordable for them. What they need is support, and while the number of homeless veterans has decreased over the years, we need to provide them with more help. The following are a few ways to help:
- Donate to charities that support Veterans
- Volunteer at local shelters and VA hospitals
- Volunteer at Stand Down programs
- Raise funds for programs
- Support emergency shelters
- Provide a safe place
If you want to donate, turn to GreenDrop. One of our main partners is the Military Order of the Purple Heart, so when you take your clothes donations to Alexandria, VA, or any of our other locations, we’ll turn your donation into money for the charity. When you donate to us, you’re directly supporting the Purple Heart and providing financial stability to keep their programs running. Donate now and do your part to help end veteran homelessness!