Understanding the prevalence of and risk for homelessness among veterans is prerequisite to preventing and ending homelessness among this population. Homeless veterans are at higher risk for chronic disease; understanding the dynamics of homelessness among veterans can contribute to our understanding of their health needs.
Methods We obtained data on demographic characteristics and veteran status for 130,554 homeless people from 7 jurisdictions that provide homelessness services, and for the population living in poverty and the general population from the American Community Survey for those same jurisdictions. We calculated prevalence of veterans in the homeless, poverty, and general populations, and risk ratios (RR) for veteran status in these populations. Risk for homelessness, as a function of demographic characteristics and veteran status, was estimated by using multivariate regression models.
Results Veterans were overrepresented in the homeless population, compared with both the general and poverty populations, among both men (RR, 1.3 and 2.1, respectively) and women (RR, 2.1 and 3.0, respectively). Veteran status and black race significantly increased the risk for homelessness for both men and women. Men in the 45- to 54-year-old age group and women in the 18- to 29-year-old age group were at higher risk compared with other ages.
Conclusion Our findings confirm previous research associating veteran status with higher risk for homelessness and imply that there will be specific health needs among the aging homeless population. This study is a basis for understanding variation in rates of, and risks for, homelessness in general population groups, and inclusion of health data from US Department of Veterans Affairs records can extend these results to identifying links between homelessness and health risks.