Homelessness among a nationally representative sample of US veterans: prevalence, service utilization, and correlates

Purpose: To examine the prevalence of lifetime homelessness among veterans and use of Veterans Affairs (VA) homeless services, as well as their association with sociodemographic and clinical characteristics.

Methods: A nationally representative sample of 1533 US veterans was surveyed July–August 2015.

Results: Among all veterans, 8.5 % reported any lifetime homelessness in their adult life, but only 17.2 % of those reported using VA homeless services. Prevalence of homelessness and VA homeless service use did not significantly differ by gender. Being low income, aged 35–44, and having poor mental and physical health were each independently associated with lifetime homelessness. Veterans who were White or lived in rural areas were significantly less likely to have used VA homeless services.

Conclusions: Homelessness remains a substantial problem across different generations of veterans. The low reported uptake of VA homeless services suggests there are barriers to care in this population, especially for veterans who live in rural areas. Governmental resources dedicated to veteran homelessness should be supported, and obtaining accurate prevalence estimates are important to tracking progress over time.

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Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology