Homelessness is a social issue in the United States of America, one that has been with us for decades, if not for our entire history. Of particular concern within the scope of this paper is the subject of homelessness among military veterans. This paper will examine the issue as a social problem, and look at contributing factors and current solutions.
In order to address the problem, it is necessary to understand certain terms. The definition of the term ‘veteran’ is given in 17 USC Sec. 101 of the U.S. Code: “The term ‘veteran’ means a person who served in the active military, naval or air service, and who was discharged or released therefrom under conditions other than dishonorable.” In her report for the Veterans Administration (VA) entitled “Veterans and Homelessness”, Libby Perl defines a homeless veteran as someone without adequate nighttime residence, or someone who will be without housing within 14 days (3).
1. Is There a Problem with Homelessness Among U.S. Veterans?
America has been at war for thirteen years. According to ABC News, between September 11, 2001 and September 11, 2011 “…2,333,972 American military personnel had been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or both, as of Aug. 30, 2011. Of that total, 1,353, 627 have since left the military….” (Martinez). The article states that the 2010 national census counted the U.S. population to be 308,745,538, drawing the conclusion that only 0.75% of the country’s population serves active duty. It also states that there were 22,658,000 living veterans, which makes up approximately 7% of the U.S. population. The importance of these ratios will become more evident.
In 2009, the United States government acknowledged there is a problem with the rate of homelessness among veterans. The President and the Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs “…announced the goal of ending Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015” (Homeless Veterans, About the Initiative).
It is very difficult to accurately census homeless people due to their transient nature. Not everyone seeks out a homeless shelter in which to spend the night. Some who do, find there are no available beds. Some homeless people live in their cars. Others find their own shelter under bridges, in abandoned buildings, or in vacant lots. Therefore, to try to get an accurate census the government uses a nationwide Point-in-Time count on a night in January to get an estimate of the homeless who spend the night in a sheltered or unsheltered environment (Henry, Cores, and Morris, 2).
According to The 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress (referred to herein as “2013 AHAR”, cited as Henry, Cores, and Morris), there were 610,042 homeless people in the U.S.; 57,849 were homeless veterans (1). Using those two figures, veterans represented about 9.5% of the total homeless population. Of just adults, veterans made up “just over 12 percent of all homeless adults” (38). VA projections for the U.S. population in July 2013...