-Most homeless veterans are single, and come from poor disadvantaged communities
-45% suffer from mental illness;
-50% have substance abuse problems;
-47% served in the Vietnam Era;
-67% served at least 3 years; and
-33% were stationed in a war zone; and 5% reside in rural area (U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs)

A large number of displaced and at-risk veterans live with lingering effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and substance abuse, compounded by a lack of family and social support networks. A top priority is to secure, safe and clean housing that offers support services. Veterans need a coordinated effort that provides housing, nutritional meals, physical health care, substance use treatment and mental health counseling, and job assessment, training, and placement assistance.

​In many cases a veteran who serves his/her country - during peacetime or at war - experiences emotional, physical, and/or medical effects of that service. These effects can also have long term residual impacts upon the veteran's mental stability and over all emotional well-being. It affects the very way the veteran perceives and interacts with his/her family, employer, co-workers, and their community. These effects can result in contact with law enforcement officials. Many veterans seem adverse to either admitting that they have a problem or to even identifying themselves as a veteran at all.

P.E.E.R.S. Caring Homes for Veterans provides screening, assessments, and individualized care management. P.E.E.R.S. Care Managers work in conjunction with VA primary health care, mental health care, substance use treatment, and other community based resource systems to serve the veteran's individual needs.

​An Individual Service Plan (ISP) is a long-range plan to address the housing, medical, counseling, education, vocational, legal, financial, social and spiritual needs of the veteran. The ISP is developed by the Care Manager in conjunction with the veteran upon entry into the program. The ISP is reviewed weekly, progress is documented, goals are updated, and adjusted, as necessary.

​For a number of reasons, not all homeless veterans are forthcoming regarding their military service. For some, they do not realize that the fact they served in the military may qualify them as a veteran eligible for benefits. It is critical that staff and volunteers are aware of these issues and are informed of how to approach the veteran in a conversation that will garner the information necessary to assist the veteran, while taking into account their diverse backgrounds.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) states that the nation's homeless veterans are predominantly male, with roughly 9% being female. The majority are single; live in urban areas; and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. About 11% of the adult homeless population are veterans.

Roughly 45% of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 10.4% and 3.4% of the U.S. veteran population, respectively.

Homeless veterans are younger on average than the total veteran population. Approximately 9% are between the ages of 18 and 30, and 41% are between the ages of 31 and 50. Conversely, only 5% of all veterans are between the ages of 18 and 30, and less than 23% are between 31 and 50.

​America's homeless veterans have served in World War II, the Korean War, Cold War, Vietnam War, Grenada, Panama, Lebanon, Persian Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq (OEF/OIF), and the military's anti-drug cultivation efforts in South America. Nearly half of homeless veterans served during the Vietnam era. Two-thirds served our country for at least three years, and one-third were stationed in a war zone.

​About 1.4 million other veterans, meanwhile, are considered at risk of homelessness due to poverty, lack of support networks, and dismal living conditions in overcrowded or substandard housing.



The United States Code contains the official federal definition of homelessness, which is commonly used because it controls federal funding streams. In Title 42, Chapter 119, Subchapter 1, "homeless" is defined as follows:

§11302. General definition of homeless individual

(a) In general

For purposes of this chapter, the term "homeless" or "homeless individual or homeless person" includes––

an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is––

  1. ​a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill);
  2. an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or
  3. a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodation for human beings."

Who is a veteran?

In general, most organizations use U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) eligibility criteria to determine which veterans can access services. Eligibility for VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions. Benefits vary according to factors connected with the type and length of military service. To see details of eligibility criteria for VA compensation and benefits, view the current benefits manual here.


11% of the homeless adult population are veterans
20% of the male homeless population are veterans
68% reside in principal cities
32% reside in suburban/rural areas
51% of individual homeless veterans have disabilities
50% have serious mental illness
70% have substance abuse problems
57% are white males, compared to 38% of non-veterans
50% are age 51 or older, compared to 19% non-veterans


In May 2007, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a special report on incarcerated veterans. The following are highlights of the report, "Veterans in State and Federal Prison, 2004," which assessed data based on personal interviews conducted in 2004:

Numbers and profiles:

There were an estimated 140,000 veterans held in state and federal prisons. State prisons held 127,500 of these veterans, and federal prisons held 12,500. Male veterans were half as likely as other men to be held in prison (630 prisoners per 100,000 veterans, compared to 1,390 prisoners per 100,000 non-veteran U.S. residents). This gap had been increasing since the 1980s. Veterans in both state and federal prison were almost exclusively male (99 percent). The median age (45) of veterans in state prison was 12 years older than that of non-veterans (33). Non-veteran inmates (55%) were nearly four times more likely than veterans (14%) to be under the age of 35.Veterans were much better educated than other prisoners. Nearly all veterans in state prison (91%) reported at least a high school diploma or GED, while an estimated 40% of non-veterans lacked either.

Military backgrounds:

The U.S. Army accounted for 46% of veterans living in the United States yet 56% of veterans in state prison. In 2004, the percentage of state prisoners who reported prior military service in the U.S. Armed Forces (10%) was half of the level reported in 1986 (20%). Most state prison veterans (54%) reported service during a wartime era, while 20% saw combat duty. In federal prison two-thirds of veterans had served during wartime, and one quarter had seen combat. Six in 10 incarcerated veterans received an honorable discharge.

Mental health:

Veteran status was unrelated to inmate reports of mental health problems. Combat service was not related to prevalence of recent mental health problems. Just over half of both combat and non-combat veterans reported any history of mental health problems. Veterans were less likely than non-veteran prisoners to have used drugs. Forty-two percent of veterans used drugs in the month before their offense compared to 58% of non-veterans.No relationship between veteran status and alcohol dependence or abuse was found.

Convictions and sentencing:

Veterans had shorter criminal histories than non-veterans in state prison. Veterans reported longer average sentences than non-veterans, regardless of offense type. Over half of veterans (57%) were serving time for violent offenses, compared to 47% of non-veterans. Nearly one in four veterans in state prison were sex offenders, compared to one in 10 non-veterans. Veterans were more likely than other violent offenders in state prison to have victimized females and minors. More than a third of veterans in state prison had maximum sentences of at least 20 years, life or death.


The 2016 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress Veteran Homelessness: A Supplemental Report to the 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress; Housing and Urban Development Congressional Research Service Report for Congress: Veterans and Homelessness; Libby Perl; February 2012 Homeless Incidence and Risk Factors for Becoming Homeless in Veterans; VA Office of Inspector General; May 2012 The 2012 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness, Volume 1 of the 2012 Point-in-Time Annual Homeless Assessment Report; Housing and Urban Development The 2015 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness, Volume 1 of the 2015 Point-in-Time Annual Homeless Assessment Report; Housing and Urban Development Ending Veteran Homelessness Together: One Veteran at a Time. ​

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