What Percentage of Homeless People Are Veterans

In the United States, veterans are disproportionately affected by homelessness, representing a significant portion of the homeless population. This troubling statistic reveals the challenges that many veterans face upon returning to civilian life, including mental health issues, substance abuse, and the difficulty in transitioning to a post-military career. This article draws on recent studies and trusted resources to shed light on the extent of homelessness among veterans, exploring the underlying causes and highlighting efforts to provide support.

Table of Contents

Understanding the Scope

Recent data suggests that veterans constitute a substantial segment of the homeless population in the United States. According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, veterans accounted for approximately 9% of all homeless adults in 2020. This is a startling figure, given that veterans represent only about 6% of the total U.S. population, indicating that veterans are overrepresented among the homeless.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) conducts annual Point-in-Time counts to estimate the number of homeless individuals on a single night. The latest count revealed that nearly 37,252 veterans were experiencing homelessness. This figure represents a decline from previous years, reflecting the impact of targeted efforts and programs aimed at addressing veteran homelessness. However, it also underscores the ongoing challenges many veterans face in securing stable housing.

What Percentage of Homeless People Are Veterans

Factors Contributing to Veteran Homelessness

The reasons behind veteran homelessness are multifaceted and complex. Key factors include:

  • Mental Health and Substance Abuse: Many veterans struggle with mental health issues such as PTSD, depression, and anxiety, which are often compounded by substance abuse. These challenges can hinder their ability to maintain employment and stable housing.
  • Economic Hardships: Transitioning from military to civilian life can be challenging, with many veterans facing unemployment or underemployment. Economic instability is a significant contributor to homelessness.
  • Lack of Affordable Housing: In many parts of the country, the scarcity of affordable housing exacerbates the problem, making it difficult for low-income veterans to find stable living conditions.
  • Social Isolation: The loss of the close-knit community found in the military can lead to social isolation for some veterans, which, in turn, can affect their mental health and financial stability.

Efforts to Combat Homelessness Among Veterans

In response to this crisis, various government and non-profit organizations have implemented programs aimed at reducing veteran homelessness. These initiatives include:

  • Housing First Approach: This strategy focuses on providing homeless veterans with stable housing without preconditions, such as sobriety or employment. The stability of having a home is seen as a foundation upon which they can rebuild their lives.
  • Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF): This program, run by the VA, offers supportive services to low-income veteran families living in or transitioning to permanent housing. Services include case management, assistance in obtaining VA benefits, and emergency financial aid.
  • Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH): This program combines rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the VA.

The Intersection of Veteran Status and Senior Citizenship in Homelessness

An often overlooked aspect of veteran homelessness is the significant number of veterans who are senior citizens. This demographic faces unique challenges that compound the difficulty of transitioning to stable civilian life. As they age, many veterans confront heightened health concerns, limited employment opportunities, and increased financial burdens, all of which can contribute to the risk of homelessness.

The Aging Veteran Population

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), a considerable portion of the veteran population is aging. The VA’s National Center for Veterans Analysis and Statistics indicates that as of recent years, more than 9 million veterans are aged 65 and older, representing over 45% of the total veteran population. This trend is projected to continue as the large cohort of Vietnam War veterans reaches retirement age, highlighting the need for targeted support and services for aging veterans.

Senior Veterans and Homelessness

Senior citizens who are veterans face a heightened risk of homelessness due to a combination of factors. Firstly, many older veterans live with chronic health issues, including those related to their military service, which can lead to significant medical expenses and reduced mobility. Secondly, the fixed incomes many seniors rely on, such as Social Security or pension benefits, may not suffice in the face of rising living costs, particularly housing. Lastly, older veterans may have fewer family members or social connections to provide support during times of need.

Senior Veterans and Homelessness

Recent studies and surveys shed light on the prevalence of homelessness among senior veterans. While exact percentages vary by region and over time, reports suggest that a significant fraction of homeless veterans are over the age of 55. For example, data from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans suggests that older veterans make up a substantial part of the homeless veteran population, with those aged 51 and older accounting for more than 50% of all homeless veterans in certain counts. This statistic underscores the pressing need for specialized services and support for this vulnerable segment of the veteran community.

Addressing the Needs of Senior Homeless Veterans

Efforts to address homelessness among senior veterans must take into account the unique challenges they face. This includes enhancing access to affordable healthcare, providing age-appropriate housing solutions, and ensuring sufficient income support. Programs like the VA’s Aid and Attendance benefit, which provides additional financial assistance to qualifying veterans and surviving spouses who require aid with daily living activities, represent critical steps in this direction. Additionally, community-based services and partnerships between government agencies and nonprofit organizations play a key role in offering the social support and resources needed to prevent homelessness among aging veterans.


While significant strides have been made in reducing the number of homeless veterans, much work remains to be done. Understanding the scope of the issue, the factors at play, and the efforts underway to provide support is crucial in addressing this pressing social issue. As a society, it is imperative to continue supporting initiatives that aid our veterans in transitioning back to civilian life, ensuring they have the resources and support needed to avoid homelessness. By acknowledging the unique challenges faced by veterans and mobilizing comprehensive support services, we can work towards a future where no veteran is left without a home.

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