In 2010 the Obama administration and Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pledged to end homelessness among veterans by 2015.
So, how’s that going?
In a December 2012 report to Congress, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) said the VA’s efforts are making a dent.
The report cites a 2011 assessment from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which found 67,495 veterans experienced homelessness on the night of the annual point-in-time count in January 2011, a 12 percent decrease from the same type of count conducted in January 2010.
In Seattle-King County, of the 587 total veterans in 2011, 41 were found to be unsheltered. The Washington state count for homeless veterans was 2,043.
The report credits increased investment in homeless assistance programs and “unprecedented collaboration” between federal agencies for the decline.
With three years to go, there’s still room for improvement.
Data show that veteran homelessness is concentrated in urban areas in heavily populated states, and that more than half of veterans who experienced homelessness were located in California, New York, Florida and Texas, although those states are home to only 28 percent of all veterans.
In rural areas, it’s difficult to get an accurate picture of veterans experiencing homelessness because they are harder to identify and often not engaged in services.
Native American veterans are overrepresented. According to the 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, Native Americans represent 0.7 percent of the total population of veterans but account for 2.5 percent of veterans experiencing homelessness.
USICH lauds the VA’s studies of Housing First, a model in which housing is not contingent upon sobriety efforts. It recommends additional housing vouchers with supportive services, move-in expenses for homeless veterans, increased collaboration between federal agencies and better engagement with tribal governments.
Thanks to the economy and foreclosure crisis, more people are confronting the possibility of homelessness. By contrast, fewer people participate in the military. As VA Secretary Eric Shinseki noted in November 2012, less than one percent of Americans participate in the military.