PIT (Point In Time) Estimate: On a single night in January 2009 there were an estimated 75,609 homeless veterans—sheltered and unsheltered. More than 43,000 (57 percent) of the veterans were sleeping in emergency shelters or transitional housing and the remaining 32,000 (43 percent) were sleeping on the streets, in cars, in abandoned buildings, or in other places not meant for human habitation.
One-Year Estimate: An estimated 136,334 people self-identified as veterans and spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program in 2009. This is 1 in every 168 veterans throughout the United States or 1 in every 10 veterans living in poverty.
Veterans are overrepresented among the homeless population. Veterans constitute just under 8 % of the total U.S. population and, based on the PIT estimates, they account for 12% of the total homeless population (and 16% of homeless adults) on a given night. Their overrepresentation is reinforced by the one-year estimates. Approximately 10 percent of all people who experienced homelessness over the year identified themselves as veterans.
The research is clear that permanent supportive housing using a Housing First approach is the primary solution. This intervention moves people off the street or out of temporary shelter into stable, affordable housing with supportive services to address mental health, substance abuse, health, and employment needs. The Housing First model assists participants to move quickly into permanent housing and provides intensive supportive services needed to achieve and maintain housing stability and improvements in overall condition.
Veterans experiencing homelessness have distinct characteristics that make it difficult to regain stability, however. They are more likely to be unsheltered and to experience homelessness for longer periods of time than non-Veterans. Veterans have high rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, traumatic brain injury, and sexual assault, all of which increase the risk of homelessness. About half of Veterans experiencing homelessness have serious mental illness, half have a history with the criminal justice system, and nearly 70 percent have substance abuse disorders.