The State of Homelessness in America 2015: Trends in Veteran Homelessness

Sadly, if you have served in the military, you’re more at risk of experiencing homelessness. Why?

A variety of factors are at play, so there is no one fast and easy answer for why veterans experience consistently greater rates of homelessness than the general population. But one major factor is combat-related disabilities like traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which are among the most significant risk factors for homelessness.

In June 2014 First Lady Michelle Obama announced the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, a campaign to enlist mayors and other leaders at the local level in the administration’s goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. (The departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) are contributing substantial resources toward to this effort.)

So how are we doing in the fight to end veteran homelessness in the next nine months? We look at this question in our recently released report “The State of Homelessness in America 2015,” the fifth in a series of annual reports by the Alliance’s Homelessness Research Institute that examines national and state progress toward ending homelessness.

The good news is that veterans saw the greatest decrease in homelessness from 2013 to 2014 of any subpopulation measured. The bad news is that nearly 50,000 homeless veterans still experienced homelessness on any given night in 2014.

Some other highlights on veteran homelessness from the report include:

  • Veteran homelessness decrease 10.3 percent from 2013 to 2014, and 32.6 percent since 2009 (the first year we have national data on veteran homelessness);
  • 35.8 percent of the homeless veteran population was unsheltered in 2014;
  • Out of the 50 states and DC, 30 states reported a decrease in veteran homelessness from 2013 to 2014; and
  • The national rate of homeless veterans decreased from 27.3 veterans per 10,000 in 2013 to 25.5 veterans per 10,000 in 2014 (see figure below for state rates compared to the national rate).

These trends indicate that the targeted funding toward ending veteran homelessness from HUD and VA is working. Veteran homelessness is steadily decreasing, and doing so at a faster rate than any other subpopulation. Some communities, such as New Orleans, have already announced an end to veteran homelessness, and others are sure to follow throughout the year.

This progress shows that, with the right funding and the right local leadership, ending homelessness is possible.