The rising concern of veteran homelessness in America has prompted U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration to set up the ambitious goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015.
Unfortunately, even with greater focus on the problem, an important segment of the veteran population is getting left behind.
According to data from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the number of homeless veteran women has risen from 1,380 in 2006 to 3,328 in 2010. These figures have nearly doubled since 1990, growing from 4 percent then to 8 percent today.
The Government Accountability Office suggests that the VA collect more detailed data on homeless female veterans in an effort to improve transitional housing while government homes can be supplied.
The GAO believes female vets may be more likely to be homeless than men. Post-traumatic stress disorder and Major Depressive Disorder can often manifest in women as a result of sexual trauma experienced in the military. Women are more likely to be sexually assaulted by a fellow service member than killed in combat. They believe being a single mother can also offer further challenges when readjusting to civilian life, increasing the need to provide a safe and secure environment.
The VA and the GAO are still researching the unique challenges female veterans face and the reasons they become homeless. In the meantime, the VA is being proactive in approaching the issue, working to get grants approved for permanent housing for those in outreach programs.
These programs not only offer a place to live, they often provide job placement services, support groups, money management skills and other personal growth skills. Veterans generally stay at these living centers until they find an apartment or receive a voucher for government housing.
It is estimated that more than 75,000 veterans were found to be homeless on any given night in January of 2009. More than half of them were staying in homeless shelters or transitional living facilities, while the remaining 43 percent were sleeping on the street. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the VA, 136,334 veterans stayed at a homeless shelter or transitional facility at least one night that same year.
That figure means that a staggering one of every 168 American veterans experienced homelessness during that 12-month period.
If you or anyone you know would like to help a veteran in need, please contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).
Photo thanks to surfbeaver under creative commons license on Flickr.