Homeless veterans more likely to stay homeless, new survey finds
Veterans who become homeless tend to stay homeless for longer periods than nonveterans, according to a new national survey by a nonprofit advocacy group. They’re also more likely to suffer from serious health conditions leading to death.
The survey of 23,000 homeless people was released Tuesday by the 100,000 Homes Campaign, a nonprofit coalition of local community groups combating homelessness. The survey found that, although veterans make up 9% of the country’s population, they accounted for more than 15% of the homeless people surveyed.
“We’ve known that veterans were particularly at risk to become homeless, but now we know that they’re more likely to stay homeless and face life-threatening conditions on the street,” the campaign’s director, Becky Kanis, said in a statement. “The data paint a picture of an extremely at-risk population that is unlikely to get off the streets without targeted help."
Among the other findings:
-Veterans reported being homeless an average of 5.7 years, compared with 3.9 years reported by nonveterans.
-More than 6 out of 10 veterans reported being homeless more than two years, versus half of nonveterans.
-Among the 12,500 people who said they had been homeless for more than two years, veterans averaged nine years, compared with 7.3 years for nonveterans.
-Of those, 3 out of 4 veterans reported a substance abuse habit, and nearly two-thirds reported a serious physical health condition.
-55% of homeless veterans reported health conditions linked to heightened mortality risk, versus 44% of nonveterans.
-21% of veterans surveyed were at least 60 years old, compared with 9% for nonveterans. The report said age did not entirely explain why veterans stayed homeless for longer periods.
-Homeless veterans were 11% more likely than nonveterans to suffer from a life-threatening condition, including liver or kidney disease, or frequent frostbite.
-Among veterans from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, 27% reported traumatic brain injuries, compared with 19% of other veterans. The signature insurgent weapon in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been roadside bombs, which typically cause traumatic brain injuries in addition to loss of limbs among service members who survive the explosions.
-46% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans surveyed reported receiving mental health treatment, versus 41% for other veterans. The Pentagon has become more attuned in recent years to the need for mental health treatment and counseling for service members returning from combat.
The organization said its survey is the first to be based on face-to-face interviews with homeless veterans across the country. It was conducted by 2,500 trained volunteers in 47 communities.
The 100,000 Homes Campaign has set a goal of securing housing for 100,000 homeless people by July2013. It says it has found permanent homes for 11,244 people as of this week. The group works with the VA and community agencies in Los Angeles and New York to speed up the process of finding housing for the homeless.
The new survey mirrored a profile of homeless veterans provided in an annual report by two government agencies issued late last month. That report, by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, put the number of homeless veterans at 144,000 in 2010.
The federal report found that veterans under 30 were twice as likely to become homeless as nonveterans of the same age. Veterans made up 13% of homeless adults in shelters, according to the government survey.
-- David Zucchino
Photo: Homeless U.S. military veterans stand in line to receive free services at a "Stand Down" event hosted by the Department of Veterans Affairs on Nov. 3 in Denver. A week ahead of Veterans Day, more than 500 homeless veterans were expected to attend the event, where they received free medical care, winter clothing, employment assistance and were able to see a judge to resolve legal issues, among other services. Credit: John Moore / Getty Images