Why Are So Many Veterans Homeless?

For decades, homelessness has been a major health problem that defies easy solutions.  

Defined by U.S. federal legislation as people who "lack a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence,"  determining how many homeless people there really are remains a perennial problem.  Part of the difficulty in understanding how common homelessness really is s deals with the relative invisibility of homeless people who, for their own safety, often prefer to stay hidden to avoid criminal victimization or possible arrest.   Since many jurisdictions make vagrancy a criminal offense, homeless people are often driven even further underground and the living conditions they endure are typically appalling.   

And there are any number of reasons why someone could end up on the street.   Along with the enormous number of people who were forced into homelessness when mental hospitals were closed across the United States during the 1970s, whole families have been reduced to homelessness following the recent economic reversals of the past ten years.   According to some estimates, approximately one out of every thirty children (2.5 million in all) are living in substandard housing or no housing at all with California and Florida having the greatest proportion of homeless people under the age of 18.   

Returning veterans who become homeless due to mental health problems or economic hardship are also becoming more common in homeless populations.   Despite numerous media stories about homeless veterans and the problems they face, actual studies exploring the incidence and causes of veteran homelessness remain scarce.  According to one estimate, the number of veterans without stable accommodation was placed at nearly 58,000 (twelve percent of the known homeless across the U.S.) as of 2013.  

To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post.



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