Of Homeless Children In America Surges To All-Time
How The Homeless are Treated in Canada VS. America (Social Experiment)
Homeless Children In America Surges To All-Time High:
The number of homeless children in the U.S. has surged in recent years to an all-time high, amounting to one child in every 30, according to a comprehensive state-by-state report that blames the nation's high poverty rate, the lack of affordable housing and the impacts of pervasive domestic violence.
Titled "America's Youngest Outcasts," the report being issued by the National Center on Family Homelessness calculates that nearly 2.5 million American children were homeless at some point in 2013. The number is based on the Department of Education's latest count of 1.3 million homeless children in public schools, supplemented by estimates of homeless pre-school children not counted by the DOE.
The problem is particularly severe in California, which has one-eighth of the U.S. population but accounts for more than one-fifth of the homeless children with a tally of nearly 527,000.
Carmela DeCandia, director of the national center and a co-author of the report, noted that the federal government has made progress in reducing homelessness among veterans and chronically homeless adults.
"The same level of attention and resources has not been targeted to help families and children," she said. "As a society, we're going to pay a high price, in human and economic terms."
Child homelessness increased by 8 percent nationally from 2012 to 2013, according to the report, which warned of potentially devastating effects on children's educational, emotional and social development, as well as on their parents' health, employment prospects and parenting abilities.
The report included a composite index ranking the states on the extent of child homelessness, efforts to combat it, and the overall level of child well-being. States with the best scores were Minnesota, Nebraska and Massachusetts. At the bottom were Alabama, Mississippi and California.
California's poor ranking did not surprise Shahera Hyatt, director of the California Homeless Youth Project.
The crux of the problem, she said, is the state's high cost of living, coupled with insufficient affordable housing.
"People think, 'Of course we are not
letting children and families be homeless,' so there's a lot
of disbelief," Hyatt said. "California has not invested in
Hyatt, 29, was homeless on and off throughout adolescence, starting when her parents were evicted when she was in 7th grade. At 15, she and her older brother took off and survived by sleeping in the tool sheds, backyards and basements of acquaintances.
"These terms like 'couch surfing' and 'doubled-up' sound a lot more polite than they are in practice," she said. "For teenagers, it might be exchanging sex for a place to stay or staying someplace that does not feel safe because they are so mired in their day-to-day survival needs."
Near San Francisco, Gina Cooper and her son, then 12, had to vacate their home in 2012 when her wages of under $10 an hour became insufficient to pay the rent. After a few months as nomads, they found shelter and support with Home & Hope, an interfaith program in Burlingame, California, and stayed there five months before Cooper, 44, saved enough to be able to afford housing on her own.
"It was a painful time for my son," Cooper said. "On the way to school, he would be crying, 'I hate this.'"
In mostly affluent Santa Barbara, the Transition House homeless shelter is kept busy with families unable to afford housing of their own. Executive director Kathleen Baushke said that even after her staff gives clients money for security deposits and rent, they go months without finding a place to live.
"Landlords aren't desperate," she said. "They won't put a family of four in a two-bedroom place because they can find a single professional who will take it."
She said neither federal nor state housing assistance nor incentives for developers to create low-income housing have kept pace with demand.
"We need more affordable housing or we need to pay people $25 an hour," she said. "The minimum wage isn't cutting it."
Among the current residents at Transition House are Anthony Flippen, Savannah Austin and their 2-year-old son, Anthony Jr.
Flippen, 28, said he lost his job and turned to Transition House as his unemployment insurance ran out. The couple has been on a list to qualify for subsidized housing since 2008, but they aren't counting on that option and hope to save enough to rent on their own now that Flippen is back at work as an electrician.
Austin, due to have a second child in December, is grateful for the shelter's support but said its rules had been challenging. With her son in tow, she was expected to vacate the premises each morning by 8 a.m. and not return before 5 p.m.
"I'd go to the park, or drive around," she said. "It was kind of hard."
The new report by the National Center on Family Homelessness a part of the private, nonprofit American Institutes for Research says remedies for child homelessness should include an expansion of affordable housing, education and employment opportunities for homeless parents, and specialized services for the many mothers rendered homeless due to domestic violence.
Efforts to obtain more resources to combat child homelessness are complicated by debate over how to quantify it.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development conducts an annual one-day count of homeless people that encompasses shelters, as well as parks, underpasses, vacant lots and other locales. Its latest count, for a single night in January 2013, tallied 610,042 homeless people, including 130,515 children.
Defenders of HUD's method say it's useful in identifying the homeless people most in need of urgent assistance. Critics contend that HUD's method grossly underestimates the extent of child homelessness and results in inadequate resources for local governments to combat it. They prefer the Education Department method that includes homeless families who are staying in cheap motels or doubling up temporarily in the homes of friends or relatives.
"Fixing the problem starts with adopting an honest definition," said Bruce Lesley, president of the nonprofit First Focus Campaign for Children. "Right now, these kids are sort of left out there by themselves."
Lesley's group and some allies have endorsed a bill introduced in Congress, with bipartisan sponsorship, that would expand HUD's definition to correlate more closely with that used by the Education Department. However, the bill doesn't propose any new spending for the hundreds of thousands of children who would be added to the HUD tally.
Shahera Hyatt, of the California Homeless Youth Project, says most of the homeless schoolchildren in her state aren't living in shelters.
"It's often one family living in
extreme poverty going to live with another family that was
already in extreme poverty," she said. "Kids have slept in
closets and kitchens and bathrooms and other parts of the
house that have not been meant for sleeping."
Youth Homelessness: Lessons From Veterans Homelessness
The Family and Youth Services Bureau's National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth (NCFY) is a free information service that aims to educate the family and youth work field about the research and effective practices that can improve the long-term social and emotional well-being of families and youth. Recently, NCFY explored how current Federal efforts to support homeless veterans could help inform efforts to support unaccompanied homeless youth. Through a two-part interview with Matthew Doherty, executive director of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), NCFY delves into some of USICH's work with homeless veterans as part of Opening Doors, a national strategy to end homelessness. The interview also shares some strategies and lessons learned from USICH's efforts around veterans' homelessness and how they could be applied to its national effort to end youth homelessness in 2020. This may be of interest to child welfare professionals due to the connection between youth homelessness and involvement with foster care and/or child welfare.
Lessons learned include the following:
To read the interview and learn more, visit www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/fysb/news/applying-lessons-learned-from-veteran-homelessness
The March 2015 issue of Children's
Bureau Express featured a spotlight section on
Articles in the spotlight section focused on the
relationship between housing insecurity and child welfare
Can you imagine living in fear of falling asleep? For thousands of homeless people across the country living in areas with "anti-homeless" laws, getting shut-eye could also mean getting handcuffed.
But fortunately, the federal government just sent a strong, game-changing message to American cities on how they should be treating homeless folks when it comes to getting a night's rest. And, according to one expert on the matter, the message is to homeless advocates what the Supreme Court's decision on marriage equality was to those fighting for gay rights.
Last week, the Department of Justice basically said being homeless should not be treated as a crime.
You might think that'd be a no-brainer, but there's actually been a growing number of American cities making it increasingly difficult to be homeless without breaking the law.
A study from the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty analyzed 187 U.S. cities between 2011 and 2014 and found criminalizing homelessness is pretty popular nowadays. Bans on sitting or lying down in certain public areas, for instance, have spiked 43%. Laws that prohibit people from sleeping in vehicles have increased by a whopping 119%.
The problem is, laws like these don't curb homelessness. They just make it more challenging for homeless people to better their circumstances.
When a person gets arrested for, say, sleeping on a public bench, that arrest makes securing a job or a place to live down the line that much harder because employers and landlords are hesitant to trust someone with a history of run-ins with the law.
Most homeless people aren't criminals," Eric Tars, a senior attorney for the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, explained to Al Jazeera. It's only the laws that criminalize their acts of survival that make them into that."
"So? Who cares? If someone breaks the law, it doesn't affect me!" someone (without a heart) might say.
Well, that might be a fair argument albeit a morally bankrupt one if it were true. But it's not. Research shows that taxpayers actually foot a larger bill when people are living without any form of shelter than if communities simply built and provided homes for those in need.
That's why it's a huge deal that the DOJ just declared Boise's ban on sleeping in public spaces as cruel and unusual punishment.
On Aug. 13, 2015, the DOJ issued a statement of interest regarding Janet F. Bell v. City of Boise. And its ramifications may be felt far outside the Gem State.
In its statement, the DOJ argues an ordinance in Boise that bans sleeping or camping in public places is unconstitutional because it violates the Eighth Amendment's protection against cruel and unusual punishment.
The DOJ claims a city can't fail to provide adequate shelter space for those in need while also outlawing sleeping in public:
"Sleeping is a life-sustaining activity i.e., it must occur at some time in some place. If a person literally has nowhere else to go, then enforcement of the anti-camping ordinance against that person criminalizes her for being homeless."
And that, the department argued, is unacceptable.
While the statement itself doesn't change policy, still "it's huge," Tars told The Washington Post. The National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty filed the lawsuit alongside Idaho Legal Aid Services on behalf of homeless individuals convicted of violating the local ordinance.
Coming from the federal level, the statement carries significant symbolic meaning and could influence how cities regulate homelessness moving forward.
It won't change the realities of being
homeless in America overnight. But it's a meaningful step
for anyone who believes homeless people should be treated
like actual human beings rather than criminals.
for Homeless Men
There's a NCFM men's group in the Dallas/Ft Worth area that initiated a holiday campaign, sponsored by the Presbyterian Night Shelter in Fort Worth. The shelter hands out bags with a want list from homeless men who visit the shelter. The men's group goes around collecting these items: socks, stocking caps, gloves, deodorant, etc. Little things to us, but the kinds of items that could make a HUGE difference to a homeless man, especially in the winter! Other men can participate by making a cash donation. Then, the men's group goes out and buys the items and fills the bags. Wouldn't this be a great idea to start in your community with a local shelter, food bank, or church program? Men helping men who aren't asking for a hand but could sure use one.
This is an original piece by Jessica Sutherland, first featured on Bright and reprinted here with permission. To read more pieces like this, go to Bright and hit the follow button.
The Secret Lives of Homeless Students
After years of homelessness, I graduated college and a competitive master's program. What about the other million-plus homeless students in the U.S.?
Did you know that there are an estimated 1.2 million homeless students in American K-12 schools? For many years, I was one of them. My mother and I lived in the same motel room from kindergarten through third grade; after a few years in a real" home that ended when I was 11, we spent the next six straight years in a cycle of chronic homelessness in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio.
To many people, homelessness evokes images of bums in tent cities, or families sleeping in a station wagon. While we spent our share of time sleeping in a shelter or a car, my childhood homelessness was mostly spent doing what my mother still, to this day prefers to call bouncing around": living in motel rooms, or sleeping in whatever extra space people could find for us in their homes, for as long as we could stretch our welcome. Occasionally, we'd have an apartment for a few months, but we'd never have any furniture, and we'd always get evicted.
Refusing to call our lifestyle chronic homelessness" didn't mean we didn't keep it a secret, or feel ashamed of it. I spent most of my teen years attending school illegally in my father's sleepy hometown; I was intensely aware that I needed to seem as normal as possible to avoid detection. I didn't completely know the consequences, but I was certain that if people found out, I would get removed to foster care and end up in a new school.
Left: 7th grade yearbook picture. We were living with my godmother when this was taken, but by Christmas, we were in a shelter. Right: 8th grade yearbook picture. We were definitely homeless and I cut my own bangs. All images via Jessica Sutherland and used with permission.
Foster care sounded better than my makeshift life with my mother, but I refused to risk losing my school. My school was my safest place, full of friends I'd known forever even though I had to keep secrets from them. After spending just one week in a Cleveland public school while staying at a downtown shelter in seventh grade, I was very aware of the quality of education I would lose if we ever got caught. My suburban school was the ticket to the future I knew I was supposed to have: a college education.
I was given several advantages at birth an able body, an active imagination, a pretty face. From a young age, I developed a sense of entitlement to go with them. When a stranger drew my portrait on a bus when I was in preschool, my mother told me it was because I was the most extraordinary little girl in the world. My early elementary years were spent in a magnet school that laid a great academic foundation and cultivated big dreams. Even when my grades dropped, as homelessness became my normal existence, it never occurred to me that I might not go to college.
I was finally removed to foster care senior year, but thanks to some powerful and clever people, I didn't miss a day at my beloved high school. However, I wasn't able to take my college entrance exams until after graduating at the top third of my class (literally, I was 101 out of 303). I took the ACT the Saturday after receiving my diploma, with none of the prep most of my friends had, and still managed to swing a 30. I was ecstatic: with that score and my decent GPA, I had a great chance of getting into college next year. I was certain that a life full of opportunity and success would follow.
I only got senior pictures because the photo company chose me to use in advertising, so they were free.
My foster parents made no mention of forcing me out of their home once I turned 18, but as my birthday loomed, I realized I had no plans for my life between high school and college. I began to work more hours at the 24-hour diner by the freeway, saving money and sleeping little. I knew I needed to figure out what happened next. I was about to be a legal adult, but I still felt very much like a foster kid.
A late-night TV commercial caught my notice after a long shift at the diner: the nearest state school, Cleveland State University, was still accepting applications. I dragged a dear friend on a campus tour the following week. It was weird to be choosing a college in July. My friend was going to a fancy private school a few hours away, but she validated my excitement when we toured the largely commuter school's lone dormitory, a converted Holiday Inn.
I can see you living here," she said. And so I applied.
At my interview, the admissions officer asked me why, with stats like mine, I would ever apply there. At the time, the school was not known for high standards of admission.
I didn't tell her I was a foster kid with nowhere else to go; I didn't tell her it was my only chance to avoid a gap year; I didn't tell her the structure of the dorm seemed like a better idea than living on my own at 18. I simply expressed my desire to learn.
My acceptance letter arrived within the week. My beautiful parents allowed me to stay with them, rent-free, for the two months between my birthday and the dorm's move-in day. I checked the right boxes on my FAFSA and got grants and academic scholarships I needed to cover most of my expenses. I walked onto two sports teams, in order to cover the rest without loans.
I was going to college, without a gap year interrupting my education. But it never occurred to me that I might not graduate.
"However, a familiar panic set in: where would I live until then? I didn't want to take summer classes just so I could keep my dorm room."
I breezed through my freshman and sophomore years. Those are the days I think of fondly as my most typical college experience.
As a cheerleader for a Division I basketball team, and a mid-distance runner, I was more sheltered and supported than I realized. A small staff oversaw my medical health, while another tracked my academic performance and guided me towards graduation. Thanks to mandatory team study halls and frequent physical therapy in the training room, most of my social circle was comprised of other athletes.
Getting tossed in the air as a CSU Vikings cheerleader
I traveled for my teams, and I traveled with my friends. I spent spring break in Florida and threw up in the sink of a beachfront McDonald's (to this day, I can't hold my alcohol). I was assigned a crazy roommate who used to stand over me in my sleep, but it wasn't until she threatened to throw me out of a window, in front of our RA, that I learned that I could do something about it. I was upgraded to a large single, and my baseball-playing boyfriend began to spend the night most of the time. I worked at a ridiculously expensive clothing store in a nearby mall.
I was a normal college kid.
By the end of sophomore year, I was eager to keep up with my friends who felt they were too old for the dorm. I agreed to move into a house with a fellow athlete that coming fall.
However, a familiar panic set in: where would I live until then? I didn't want to take summer classes just so I could keep my dorm room. Even if I did, I would still have to move out of the dorm for two weeks between semesters. I'd spent those closures at my foster parents' house in the past, but the room where I slept had since been converted to an office.
I have an idea," my baseball-playing boyfriend said to me one night. You should move into my room for the summer. My mom won't care." He was headed out of state, to play in some competitive league for the entire summer.
No way. I could never ask her to do that. She'd never say yes."
I already asked her. She already did."
"Nobody was keeping me in line; nobody was telling me I was allowed to make mistakes."
Junior year was a disaster. My friend and I found an apartment, but she secretly decided to transfer schools mid-year, so she never signed the lease. When she moved out, I was responsible for more rent than I could afford. I soon began working at a downtown brewery more, and going to school less. There was nobody to ask for help or guidance, and my attempts to live with other roommates failed miserably.
Ultimately, I broke the lease and moved into a much cheaper and crummier apartment in a much worse neighborhood. My baseball-playing boyfriend and I fought constantly, and finally broke up. I dabbled in a different major, and my grades plummeted. I'd quit athletics that year, and my life suddenly lacked the excitement and structure it once had. Nobody was keeping me in line; nobody was telling me I was allowed to make mistakes.
For the first time in my life, I got an F on my report card. I decided I needed to take a semester off.
When I told my family about leaving school, nobody challenged me. Nobody told me it was a bad idea to drop out, that nearly half of college dropouts will never return to finish their degree. At 20, completely on my own, I needed an advocate, a mentor, a bossy guide to force me to take the harder road.
But as much as I needed a kick in the butt, nobody told me to keep going. So I didn't.
I dropped out for what became five years, before finally hitting a ceiling at my sales job that could only be shattered with either three more years of experience or a college degree. My boss had always insisted that I was too good for sales, and he strongly encouraged me to finish my bachelor's so I could have more choices.
So, at 25 years of age, I decided to finish what I had started, and returned to Cleveland State as a junior. I didn't have the support of the athletic department, but I had enough life experience to navigate the madness of choosing the right classes and filling out endless paperwork. I knew how to pay bills and keep a roof over my head.
In the meantime, Cleveland State had made vast improvements, and so tuition had tripled. I had no choice but to take out loans to offset what grants didn't cover. I took work as a cocktail waitress to pay my bills.
My first Film Festival, with a film I made in undergrad.
In 18 months, I had my degree and decided to continue my education even further. After internships and student projects at local news stations and with the Cleveland Indians, I knew I wanted to work in film and television. I had always fantasized about attending film school, but it wasn't until two of my CSU professors pushed me to apply that I thought I might actually get accepted. They were right about me: I got in everywhere I applied, and chose the University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinematic Arts for my Master of Fine Arts.
While packing to move to Los Angeles, I found a box with abandoned applications and glossy USC brochures from years past. USC had been my dream school for nearly a decade, especially while I was dropped out of college. I smiled to myself as I realized how far I'd come. That abandoned dream was about to become reality.
By 2012, I had a master's degree from USC and a good job at Yahoo!, which I thought was everything I wanted. I always knew I would tell my story one day; now that I had a happy ending, I had the power to help other homeless kids like I once was.
Eventually, I went to observe Mondays at the Mission," a wonderful life skills class for teenagers at the Union Rescue Mission on Los Angeles' Skid Row. When a scheduled speaker got stuck in traffic, I was asked to share my story as a backup. I remember feeling unbelievably nervous. Though it was my story, there was a lot to say, and I had nothing prepared. Before I could say no, founder Christopher Kai assured me that my story was worth telling. I pushed through, speaking for 45 minutes.
I wanted those children to know they had nothing to be ashamed of, that homelessness is not permanent, and that scars heal. Most importantly, I wanted them to learn to ask for help. Once I'd learned to ask for help, to accept it, and to trust others, my life got so much better. I told them that nobody was waiting for them to fail. They had to be brave and open up to trusted adults.
My speech captivated the kids. One student asked me why I didn't cry as I told my sad story. I said that even when things hurt us, wounds heal. Scars remind us of the pain we've survived, but they themselves do not hurt anymore.
After class, a soft-spoken boy named James lingered. I only came up to his shoulders, but his shyness made him seem half my size. Do you think you could help me get into college?" he asked.
I took a deep breath and looked him in the eye. I'd barely gotten into college myself, but
A year later, my young friend was accepted into 9 out of the 13 schools he'd applied to. In the end, he chose Howard University. He also chose student loans, which are, with rare exception, a necessary evil when attempting to better oneself through higher education.
When his Parent PLUS loans were declined, due somewhat ironically to his family's poverty, I created a crowd-funder for him on Tumblr, using the hashtag #HomelessToHoward. It went viral overnight. Within two weeks, we'd raised so much money that I had to apply to start a nonprofit in order to protect the funding as scholarship, rather than income.
I had a master's degree in my dream field, from my dream school; I was on track to a decent career as a producer. While I'd always hoped to inspire young people with my story one day, I hadn't planned to give up my producing career just as it began. I was ill-equipped to run a nonprofit to help homeless kids. But by this point, I'd realized that my life doesn't always go according to plan.
"Yet somehow, when all was nearly lost, someone always saved my day, cheered me on, and pushed me forward. What if Homeless to Higher Ed could be that someone for the 56,000 homeless kids in our colleges today?"
Most nonprofits start with an idea. Planning comes next, then fundraising, and then hopefully publicity. My organization, Homeless to Higher Ed, was built in reverse: We raised money and went public before I knew what our precise mission would be.
I watched my young mentee closely as he transitioned to a college student and mini-celebrity. I quickly realized that money didn't provide everything he needed to thrive; there was so much more to it than that. So I began researching homeless students in American colleges. And I was shocked to find that I could see myself in the statistics.
There were over 56,000 homeless and aged-out foster youth enrolled in American colleges in 2014. I learned that more than 90% of them won't graduate within six years. It took me nine years to get my bachelor's.
Even in a dismal economy, unemployment rates decrease as education level rises: to wit, education is the most reliable escape from poverty. And the most consistent indicator of success in college is whether or not the student's parents attended college. I had no college-educated relatives guiding me.
I also learned that homeless college students tend to be secretive. Fiercely independent. Eager to fit in. Afraid they have no right to be in college. Ashamed of their poverty. Paranoid about what poverty says about them to others. These traits combine to make them hard to identify and it's even more challenging to get homeless students to accept help, much less ask for it. Daresay that most of them think they don't need it.
I'd never really thought about the odds that I'd beaten to get where I was. To me, it was the only normal course for my life, and failure wasn't an option. Except, of course, for all those times when it was.
Yet somehow, when all was nearly lost, someone always saved my day, cheered me on, and pushed me forward. What if Homeless to Higher Ed could be that someone for the 56,000 homeless kids in our colleges today?
Homeless college students? That's a thing?"
Six months after incorporating the nonprofit, I had our mission: to normalize the college experience for homeless and aged-out foster youth. This also means that we need to de-stigmatize homelessness, so students in need will self-identify and get the help they need.
I often joke that my greatest shame is now my claim to fame. It's now impossible to Google me and not know that I spent a long time homeless. It's not something I've hidden about myself; I've been open about my childhood for my entire adult life. However, homeless students in college are often quite ashamed of their background, and struggle mightily to hide it. In fact, that 56,000 number is likely just a fraction of the actual homeless and aged-out foster youth in American colleges today, since it's based solely on students' willingness to self-report.
9 times out of 10, whenever I tell someone that I am building an organization that helps normalize the college experience for homeless students, the reaction is, Homeless college students? That's a thing?"
Yeah. It's a thing. But it doesn't
have to be.
In 1980, 28.5 million veterans lived in the United States, but the number declined to 27.5 million in 1990 (14.5 percent of the adult civilian population) and to 26.4 million in 2000. Many veterans from the Korean War, World War II, and World War I aged and died during the last 20 years of the 20th Century.
Where Veterans Live
Between 1990 and 2000, veterans declined as a percentage of the civilian population in all regions. Among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, Alaska had the highest percentage of veterans, 17.1 percent. New York (9.5 percent) and the District of Columbia (9.8 percent) had the lowest percentages of veterans in their populations. Rural and nonmetropolitan counties had the highest concentration of veterans. Hampton, Virginia, near the country's largest naval station, had the greatest concentration of veterans in 2000, 27.1 percent. Six of the 10 places with the highest concentration of veterans were in Virginia.
In 2000, the largest veteran populations lived in the South (9.9 million) and the Midwest (6.1 million). The West had veteran populations of 5.7 million and the Northeast had 4.6 million. The South also had the highest proportion of veterans of the adult population, at 13.4 percent.
More Women Veterans
The number of female veterans has been increasing. Although the 1.6 million women veterans made up only 6 percent of the total veteran population in 2000, the percentages of women veterans from recent time periods is higher. Nearly 10 percent of veterans who served from May 1975 to August 1980 and 13 percent of those who served from September 1980 to July 1990 were women. In the most recent period of service, August 1990 or later, more than 15 percent were women.
Poverty Low Among Veterans
Poverty rates were low
among veterans for every period of service. Overall, 5.6
percent of veterans lived in poverty in 1999, compared with
10.9 percent of the U.S. adult population in general. The
youngest veterans, those who served in August 1990 or later,
were among the most likely to be poor, with a poverty rate
of 6.2 percent.
are homeless veterans?
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states the nations homeless veterans are predominantly male, with roughly five percent being female. The majority of them are single; come from urban areas; and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. About one-third of the adult homeless population are veterans.
Americas homeless veterans have served in World War II, the Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Afghanistan and Iraq (OEF/OIF), and the militarys anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America. Nearly half of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam era. Two-thirds served our country for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone.
Roughly 56 percent of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 12.8 percent and 15.4 percent of the U.S. population respectively.
About 1.5 million other veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.
How many homeless veterans are there?
Although flawless counts are impossible to come by the transient nature of homeless populations presents a major difficulty VA estimates that 107,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Over the course of a year, approximately twice that many experience homelessness. Only eight percent of the general population can claim veteran status, but nearly one-fifth of the homeless population are veterans.
Why are veterans homeless?
In addition to the complex set of factors influencing all homelessness extreme shortage of affordable housing, livable income and access to health care a large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse, which are compounded by a lack of family and social support networks.
A top priority for homeless veterans is secure, safe, clean housing that offers a supportive environment free of drugs and alcohol.
Although most homeless people are single, unaffiliated men most housing money in existing federal homelessness programs, in contrast, is devoted to helping homeless families or homeless women with dependant children, as is stated in the study Is Homelessness a Housing Problem? (Understanding Homelessness: New Policy and Research Perspectives, Fannie Mae Foundation, 1997).
Doesnt VA take care of homeless veterans?
To a certain extent, yes. VAs specialized homeless programs served more than 92,000 veterans in 2009, which is highly commendable. This still leaves well over 100,000 more veterans, however, who experience homelessness annually and must seek assistance from local government agencies and community- and faith-based service organizations. In its November 2007 "Vital Mission" report, the National Alliance to End Homelessness estimated that up to about half a million veterans have characteristics that put them in danger of homelessness. These veterans may require supportive services outside the scope of most VA homeless programs.
Since 1987, VAs programs for homeless veterans have emphasized collaboration with such community service providers to help expand services to more veterans in crisis. These partnerships are credited with reducing the number of homeless veterans by more than half over the past six years. More information about VA homeless programs and initiatives can be found here.
What services do veterans need?
Veterans need a coordinated effort that provides secure housing, nutritional meals, basic physical health care, substance abuse care and aftercare, mental health counseling, personal development and empowerment. Additionally, veterans need job assessment, training and placement assistance.
NCHV strongly believes that all programs to assist homeless veterans must focus on helping them obtain and sustain employment.
What seems to work best?
The most effective programs for homeless and at-risk 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.
Government money, while important, is currently limited, and available services are often at capacity. It is critical, therefore, that community groups reach out to help provide the support, resources and opportunities most Americans take for granted: housing, employment and health care. Veterans who participate in collaborative programs are afforded more services and have higher chances of becoming tax-paying, productive citizens again.
What can I do?
The United States Code contains the official federal definition of homelessness, which is commonly used because it controls federal funding streams. In Title 42, Chapter 119, Subchapter 1, "homeless" is defined as:
§11302. General definition of homeless individual
(a) In general
For purposes of this chapter, the term "homeless" or "homeless individual or homeless person" includes
1. an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and
2. an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is:
A. a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill);
B. an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or
C. a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings."
Who is a veteran?
In general, most organizations use the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) eligibility criteria to determine which veterans can access services. Eligibility for VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions. Benefits vary according to factors connected with the type and length of military service. To see details of eligibility criteria for VA compensation and benefits, view the current benefits manual here.
Demographics of homeless veterans
"The Forgotten Americans-Homelessness: Programs and the People They Serve" released Dec. 8, 1999, by the U.S. Interagency Council on the Homeless (USICH) is the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (NSHAPC), which was completed in 1996 and updated three years later. You can download the NSHAPC reports at www.huduser.org.
Veteran-specific highlights from the USICH report include:
Service needs cited include:
How many homeless veterans are there?
Accurate numbers community-by-community are not available. Some communities do annual counts; others do an estimate based on a variety of factors. Contact the closest VA medical center's homeless coordinator, the office of your mayor, or another presiding official to get local information.
A regional breakdown
of numbers of homeless veterans, using data from VA's 2009
CHALENG (Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education
and Networking Groups) report which contains the most
widely cited estimate of the number of homeless veterans
can be found here
In May 2007, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a special report on incarcerated veterans. The following are highlights of the report, Veterans in State and Federal Prison, 2004, which assessed data based on personal interviews conducted in 2004:
Numbers and profiles
Convictions and sentencing
In a Zero Suicide approach, HBH providers should have practices in place that keep all patients at increased risk for suicide engaged in treatment, including attending to hard-to-reach populations such as homeless patients. During this webinar, presenters will share innovative and thoughtful ways they have successfully improved patient engagement and optimized safe care transitions for homeless individuals through their organizational policies and practices. By the end of this webinar, participants will be able to
(1) identify commonly experienced
challenges in providing suicide care to homeless patients,
(2) describe unique suicide screening, risk assessment, and safety planning considerations for this population, and
(3) demonstrate how HBH organizations can establish meaningful partnerships with community organizations to augment safer suicide care practices for patients experiencing homelessness. Learn more and register here: https://go.edc.org/ZeroSuicideWebinar