Housing Homeless Veterans
In the United States and Canada, many individuals who have served their country find themselves on the streets with nowhere to go. In 2010, the White House launched an initiative known as “Opening Doors” with a goal to eradicate veteran homelessness over five years. The initiative involved federal and state players as well as nonprofit organizations and institutions. The administration spent $16 billion on the program to increase the overall Veterans Affairs budget by 85%.
In January 2016, the Department of Housing and Urban Development estimated that fewer than 40,000 veterans were homeless on any given night, 47% less than 2010. Of those they found 13,000 were living in the streets, representing a 56% drop in six years. Although America has a long way to go to eradicate veteran homelessness - this solid investment has yielded impressive results.
The strategy of the "Opening Doors" program was multi-faceted: it bolstered transitional and permanent housing, but also provided services such as mental health, addiction service and chronic disease management, and gave housed veterans ways to avoid falling back into homelessness. It moved away from just managing homelessness to providing permanent housing, case management and supports for veterans who found themselves homeless.
In Canada, it is estimated that there are approximately 2,250 veterans using homeless shelters and the number is on the rise. Veterans can face a wide range of challenges in finding housing especially those discharged for health reasons. Earlier this year the federal government launched a program to assist veterans who are homeless offering 24/7 crisis support. The next Metro Vancouver homeless count to take place in March 2017 will enumerate homeless veterans giving an indication of how serious the problem really is.
- 2,250 - Estimated number of veterans who use shelters annually
- 639 - Homeless veterans registered in Veteran Affairs Canada's database as of June 30
- 232 - Homeless veterans in the database who are between age 50 and 59
- 138 - Homeless veterans in the database who are over age 65
- 235,000 - Canadians who experience homelessness annually
- 5-7% of the homeless population who are veterans, based on municipal point-in-time homeless counts
(Sources: Employment and Social Development Canada, Veterans Affairs Canada, Canadian Observatory on Homelessness)