An Overview of Female Veteran Homelessness in the United States

Of particular concern to the WSF are the number of female homeless veterans and female homeless veterans with children.

The Housing and Service Needs of Our Female Veterans Affordable housing challenges and homelessness can be substantial problems for female veterans, but some subgroups of female veterans face disproportionate housing challenges. The National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans found that the risks of homelessness were greatest among younger female veterans, especially young African American women. Housing instability and high housing cost burdens are common among female veterans’ households, but low-income female veterans and single female veterans with children are most likely to face these housing challenges.

Single veteran mothers are a particularly vulnerable population. Many of these women return from military service and face major challenges that put them at increased risk of homelessness. They often lack support in overcoming these obstacles to provide and care for their families as they transition into civilian life. Single veteran mothers constitute a significant and growing share of female veterans; in 2016, there were more than 145,000 households headed by single veteran mothers, which constitutes about 16 percent of all female veteran headed households.

As the share of single-mother households increases in the United States overall, the numbers of single veteran mothers will also rise. Half of single veteran mother households were housing cost burdened in 2012. By comparison, only about a quarter of all veteran-headed households were cost burdened that year. The higher rate of housing cost burden for veterans who are single mothers is not surprising, however, since housing cost burden is more common among single mother households in the civilian population, as well. Furthermore, rates of housing cost burden were much higher among very- or extremely-low income female-headed veteran households and those with children at home.

At least some of the economic challenges faced by female veterans are associated with broader socioeconomic characteristics of this population that predate their military service. For example, in a recent survey, 42 percent of female veterans said that they joined the military due in part to a lack of other job opportunities. Researchers have also suggested that some women recruits may see the military as a chance to escape from unstable home environments.Female veterans, therefore, may be more susceptible to difficulties transitioning from military to civilian life, as a result, of few employment prospects, a weak family support network, and other socioeconomic disadvantages.

Despite communities throughout Virginia, Maryland and the D.C. having made vast improvements in their homelessness response and housing assistance systems, there are still 1,680 people experiencing homelessness on any given night.

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