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About Homelessness

To understand the HWHP’s mission, you must understand why our War Fighters are homeless and the gravity of homelessness. Moreover, why HUD-VASH friendly property owners like the WSF are part of the solution to ending homelessness among veterans, who sacrificed so much to keep our country safe and free.

Homeless veterans are persons who have served in the armed forces who are homeless or living without access to secure and appropriate accommodation.

Veteran homelessness is not a phenomenon only of the 21st century; as early as the Reconstruction Era, homeless veterans were among the general homeless population. In 1932, homeless veterans were part of the Bonus Army. In 1934, there were as many as a quarter million veterans living on the streets. During the Truman Administration, there were one hundred thousand homeless veterans in Chicago and a quarter that population of homeless veterans in Washington, D.C. In 1987, the number of homeless veterans was as high as three hundred thousand.

Estimates of the homeless population vary, as these statistics are very difficult to obtain. In 2007, the first veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom - Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom, began to be documented in homeless shelters.

  • By 2009, there were 154,000 homeless, with slightly less than half having served in South Vietnam.
  • According to the VA in 2011, veterans made up 14% of homeless adult males, and 2% of homeless adult females, and both groups were over represented within the homeless population compared to the general population.
  • The overall count in 2012 showed 62,619 homeless veterans in the United States of America.
  • In January 2013, there were an estimated 55,619 homeless veterans in the U.S., or 12% of the homeless population. Just under 8% are female.
  • In July 2014, the largest population of homeless veterans lived in Los Angeles County, with there being over 6,000 homeless veterans, part of the larger estimated 54,000 homeless within that area.
  • In 2015, in a report issued by HUD, it counted over 47,000 thousand homeless veterans nationwide, the majority of whom were white and male.
  • In 2016, there were over 39,000 homeless veterans nationwide.

Twenty percent (20%) of the male homeless population are veterans. Veterans between the ages of 18 and 30 are twice as likely as adults in the general population to be homeless, and the risk of homelessness increases significantly among young veterans who are poor. While overall, homeless vets tend to be male, female veterans make up the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, according to a New York Times report.

A number of factors drives this high rate of veteran homelessness. Like the general homeless population, veterans are at a significantly increased risk of homelessness if they have low socioeconomic status. Multiple and extended deployments may contribute to unemployment and family conflict which can lead to isolation and poverty, increasing their risk for homelessness.

Two major risk factors for homelessness across all populations are mental health disorders and a history of substance abuse. Fifty percent (50%) of homeless veterans have serious mental health diagnoses and 70% have substance abuse issues. In addition, because of a vets’ military service, this population is at a higher risk of experiencing traumatic brain injuries and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), both of which are among the most substantial risk factors for homelessness.

Another problem faced by homeless vets is one faced by many homeless individuals. Property owners are reluctant to rent to homeless persons. A recent study found almost 6,200 homeless veterans in Washington D.C. who had government vouchers designed to cover their rent had been unable to locate property owners that would accept them. All of these factors combine to create a perfect storm in which vets are 50% more likely to become homeless than other Americans.

 Homeless Housing Fact:

No veteran should experience homelessness, and thanks to important actions at the Federal, state and local levels, ending veteran homelessness is an achievable goal, but there is more work to do. In January 2016, 39,471 veterans were experiencing homelessness in the United States, and veterans accounted for more than 8 percent of all adults facing homelessness. Achieving this goal requires a community-wide response to provide access to rental units for veterans that are exiting homelessness, especially in high-cost and tight rental markets. There is still a need for property owners to make units available for veterans who may experience homelessness in the future.

HWHP Solution:

WSF is an approved Department of Veteran Affairs (“VA”) to participant in its VA foreclosed home sales program. This program sells VA-foreclosed properties to homeless provider organizations at a discount for use as transitional housing for homeless veterans.

Homeless Housing Fact:

One pronounced problem faced by homeless vets is that land lords are reluctant to rent to homeless persons or persons with invisible injuries. A recent study found almost 6,200 homeless veterans in Washington D.C. who had government vouchers designed to cover their rent had been unable to locate property owners that would accept them. In addition, there is a severe lack of affordable housing available to veterans across the two states (Maryland and Virginia) and in the District of Columbia, which further compounds the problem.

HWHP Solution:

Through WSF’s Homeless Warriors Housing Program, the WSF will redevelop, re-purpose and/or restore severely distressed properties acquired from Wells Fargo's CUSP and/or to purchased from Department of Veteran Affairs for use as transitional and/or permanent rental housing for our nations homeless veterans and their families. Upon completion of each property’s housing project, the WSF will work with the federal government’s HUD-VASH program to secure government subsidized rental agreements for homeless veterans and their families. HUD-VASH is a collaborative program between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) that combines HUD housing vouchers with VA supportive services to help veterans and their families find and sustain permanent housing. In addition, some public housing authorities choose to use portions of their HUD-VASH allocations for project-based assistance, enabling the creation of new permanent supportive housing units.

Homeless Housing Fact:

Federal, state and local governments are deploying immense resources to end homelessness in America and to address the homeless problems specifically faced by our nations’ veterans and their families. Under the Obama administration, the Whitehouse received pledges from 355 mayors, 7 governors, and 112 county and city officials to end veteran homelessness in their communities. However, private organizations are needed to supplement the governmental programs in order to provide a real and permanent solution to the problem.

HWHP Solution:

According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, the most effective programs for homeless and at-risk veterans are community-based, nonprofit, “veterans helping veterans” groups. Programs that seem to work best feature transitional housing, the camaraderie of living in structured, substance-free environments, with fellow veterans who are succeeding at bettering themselves. Government money, while important, is limited, and available services are often at capacity. It is critical, therefore, that community groups reach out to help provide the support, resources and opportunities that most Americans take for granted: safe, decent and affordable housing, employment and health care. Veterans who participate in collaborative programs are afforded more services and have higher chances of becoming tax-paying, productive citizens again.

The Williams-Sterling Foundation Tax Identification Number (also known as Employee Identification Number or EIN) is 20-8827563.