Homelessness among veterans has been cut in half since 2010, VA says

Tents at the state-run homeless encampment off U.S. 183 in Austin on Feb. 25, 2020. (Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune, Miguel Gutierrez Jr./The Texas Tribune)

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Veterans at risk of or experiencing homelessness can call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).

Homelessness disproportionately affects veterans, but the Department of Veterans Affairs announced Wednesday that a variety of efforts to help veterans find housing has resulted in the rate dropping 11% in the past three years nationwide and more than 50% since 2010.

Additional money from Congress and a strengthened strategy between the VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development has helped to bring homelessness rates down, VA officials said in a conference call.

“There are thousands of formerly homeless Veterans who are going to sleep tonight in good, safe, stable homes – and there’s nothing more important than that,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a press release.

Texas and California have the two largest veteran populations in the country. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, the number of homeless Texas veterans dropped from 5,527 in 2007 to 1,948 in 2020, a 65% decrease.

“This is great progress, but it’s just the beginning,” McDonough said. “We at VA will not rest until the phrase ‘homeless veteran’ is a thing of the past.”

Early last year, the VA set a goal to house at least 38,000 veterans experiencing homelessness and exceeded the goal, with more than 40,000 veterans receiving housing in 2022.

Blake Harris, director of the Texas Veterans Commission’s Veterans Mental Health Department, said the same factors that contribute to homelessness among the general population are amplified in the veteran community. Harris said traumatic brain injuries from combat and a limited social support network increase the likelihood of a veteran experiencing homelessness.

“That’s where you see more substance abuse, more drug use, more opportunities to do all the things that further amplify the risk of struggling to get and maintain housing,” Harris said. “The homeless veterans, in terms of need, are in the deeper end of the pool.”

Major policy efforts nationally helped to reduce homelessness among veterans, including a collaboration between the VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development called the Veterans Assistance Supportive Housing program that gives veterans vouchers to help pay rent and access to case managers and clinical services through the VA.

Congress has also earmarked money to address the problem. The American Rescue Plan included $10 billion to reduce homelessness nationally for veterans and nonveterans alike, and the American Jobs Plan invested $213 billion to create more affordable housing.

Disclosure: Texas Veterans Commission has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune, a nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization that is funded in part by donations from members, foundations and corporate sponsors. Financial supporters play no role in the Tribune's journalism. Find a complete list of them here.