Veteran Homelessness Has Decreased, But Younger Vets Are Increasingly At Risk

Picture a large city, bustling people, large sky scrapers, lots of noises and different shops for you to spend your whole month’s check. But, your eyes skirt around the homeless people sitting on the street begging for money.

Many of them are unclean, drunk and muttering incoherently. You probably assume they want money to fuel their addiction to drugs or alcohol. What you might not know is that these people may not have the resources to help them attain an apartment.   

I know that when I see a homeless person, I used to assume that they are just druggies who became homeless because they couldn’t support their habit. Unfortunately, that is a majority of people’s perception of homelessness. After volunteering with numerous homeless organizations, my perceptions changed. It has actually shaped my career path and now has me serving as an AmeriCorps member for the Michigan Coalition Against Homelessness.  

Homelessness is a huge issue within any city. Many of these homeless individuals are veterans. The Housing Urban Development Authority (HUD) released a report stating that 633,782 people were homeless in January 2012. This number results from the Point-in-Time report which captures homelessness within the last two weeks of January ever year. “’On a single night in January 2012, 62,619 veterans were homeless,’ the agency [HUD] said. Veteran homelessness has now been reduced by 17.2% since January 2009.” Unfortunately, a large number of younger veterans have increased.

Younger veterans oftentimes go into the Army without thinking of a plan afterwards. Of course, that is certainly the last thing on their mind when fighting overseas. This leads to the individuals having a harder time adjusting to civilian life. Many younger veterans coming back from war come back with a lot of issues such as PSTD (post traumatic stress disorder). These individuals may end up on the streets because of the lack of knowledge about resources.

What needs to be done is change the public’s perception of homelessness. This can be done many ways. The best way is to actually volunteer at a local VA or homeless shelter. Cities throughout the United States participate in Project Homeless Connect, which are “one-stop, one day” community events offering services to homeless or at-risk individuals. These resources help create advocacy and spreads awareness about homelessness. Some of these activities may realm outside people’s the comfort zone, so researching homelessness on the Internet may be more suited for people's interests. The Corporation for National and Community Service is also trying to focus on veteran volunteer recruitment in order to help provide skills and experience veterans may need for the workforce.

Hopefully with these combined efforts from service agencies and compassionate individuals, people will be able to get off the streets. If you have any questions about volunteering or about issues on homelessness, please contact me or research it for yourself!