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Updated June 20, 2011
Who are Homeless Veterans?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) says homeless veterans are mostly single males who come from poor, disadvantaged communities. A large percentage of homeless veterans suffer from mental illness and have substance abuse problems.
America's homeless veterans are individuals who have served in World War II, Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, the Gulf War, and during non-war times.
How many homeless veterans are there?
Accurate numbers are difficult to establish. The VA estimates that more than 275,000 veterans are homeless on any given night and more than half a million experience homelessness over the course of a year. In California, as of 1994, there were more than 33,000 homeless veterans. A 1999 Monterey County government sponsored homeless census showed as many as 1300 homeless veterans countywide.
Why are Veterans Homeless?
There are many complex factors that lead to homelessness. Key among them are:
The extreme shortage of affordable housing
No livable income
No access to health care
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Lack of support by family, friends, and society
What services do veterans need?
Veterans' needs are as diverse as they are. Case managers can assess the needs of each veteran and coordinate a plan that offers the best solution for each individual. Most veterans need:
secure and affordable housing
health care - both physical and mental
substance abuse counseling
job training and opportunities
According to the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans, the most effective programs for homeless veterans are provided by local non profit organizations such as the VTC. "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 in bettering themselves."