Homelessness affects nearly 40,000 Veterans in the United States. In addition to homelessness, Veterans can also struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or substance abuse disorders following active duty. Furthermore, some Veterans may not easily find work after military service, as many military skills do not transfer to civilian jobs. These lingering mental health problems and challenges with job security can make it difficult to maintain an income suitable for stable and safe housing. Sunrise Veterans Health offers help for homeless Veterans with mental health and substance use disorders.
Statistics on Veterans and Homelessness
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) works to understand homelessness and provide help for homeless Veterans. Homeless Veterans might live on the streets, in homeless camps or tents, in transitional housing, or at an emergency shelter. To add, Veterans living in places like these might always be on the move and never feel safe or secure, negatively impacting their mental health.
According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the following statistics highlight the need to provide help for homeless Veterans:
- Each night in January 2020, an estimated 37,252 Veterans experienced homelessness.
- 64% of Veterans exiting VA or other community-based housing programs engaged in mental health treatment in 2020.
- Nearly 50% fewer Veterans experienced homelessness in 2020 than in 2009.
- From 2019 to 2020, rates of homelessness among Veterans only increased by less than one percent.
- About 6,547 Veterans completed homeless residential programs with competitive employment upon discharge.
These statistics highlight the impact of help for homeless Veterans. Since 2009, outcomes among homeless Veterans have been trending upward, thus showing these programs are effective. Entering a treatment program and finding stable housing are the best ways to help homeless Veterans with substance abuse and mental health disorders.
Still, Veterans are more likely to become homeless than the general population. Understanding why Veterans become homeless in the first place, however, can therefore provide direction for homeless outreach and preventative programming.
What Contributes to Veterans and Homelessness?
Several factors contribute to rates of homelessness among Veterans. For one, Veterans face unique challenges upon re-entering civilian life after serving in the military.
Contributing factors to homelessness among Veterans includes:
- Potential disability due to combat injuries or mental health disorders caused by trauma during service
- Wait times for disability payments to begin can take several months
- After service, many Veterans don’t have adequate social support from family and loved ones
- Veterans are more likely to isolate or live alone, which means that they have no one to share living expenses
- Military skills might not transfer directly into the civilian job market
- Untreated mental health and substance use disorders can make it tough to maintain a job to pay for rent and housing expenses
Veterans might feel left out by society after returning home from active duty. They might have left their homes for months or even years. Coming back home when your family and friends have all moved on can isolate Veterans, leading to a lack of support. In addition, many Veterans have PTSD or experience mental health symptoms caused by the stressors of military service. Veterans with untreated mental health issues are more likely to abuse drugs and alcohol to cope with their symptoms. Substance use disorders correlate with trouble maintaining a job, problems in relationships, financial struggles, and legal issues. These problems can contribute to homelessness among Veterans who are not seeking treatment for mental health and substance use disorders.
Mental Health and Substance Use Treatment for Veterans
Help for homeless Veterans should address housing while also dealing with the underlying causes of homelessness. In addition, Veterans might have untreated mental health issues upon leaving military service. When these issues are not addressed, for instance, a Veteran’s quality of life can significantly diminish. As a result, this can lead to several problems like homelessness.
Treatment options for mental health and substance use among Veterans include:
- Therapy: Group and individual counseling with the guidance of a licensed therapist can help Veterans learn healthy coping skills. Therapy can help further address negative thoughts, self-esteem issues, relationship problems, and other issues that Veterans might face.
- EMDR therapy: Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is an evidence-based therapeutic practice for symptoms of PTSD.
- Holistic therapy: Taking care of the whole person in recovery from mental health and substance use disorders is critical to leading a happy life. Therefore, holistic therapies help Veterans learn the importance of mindfulness, nutrition, relaxation, and recreation during recovery.
- 12-Step immersion: Peer support groups based on 12-Step principles can benefit Veterans in recovery from substance abuse. Veterans in recovery can prevent isolation by participating in peer support groups.
- Medication-assisted treatment (MAT): MAT combines the use of prescription medications and behavioral therapy to treat drug and alcohol addictions. The FDA has approved specific medications for opioid and alcohol use disorders.
By addressing these underlying causes of homelessness, Veterans can improve their quality of life and successfully manage mental health symptoms throughout long-term recovery.
Help for Homeless Veterans
Sunrise Veterans Health offers help for homeless Veterans struggling with mental health and substance use disorders. In addition, we provide a range of evidence-based treatment options to help Veterans live healthy, happy lives after service. Call us today or visit our admissions page to begin treatment.