Veterans Experiencing Homelessness

This resource provides information and current statistics about veterans experiencing homelessness.

Veterans Experiencing Homelessness

According to Veteran Homelessness: A Supplement to the 2009 Annual Homelessness Report, released in January 2011 by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Developmenti:

  • An estimated 75,609 veterans (male and female) were homeless on a single night in January 2009.
  • Roughly 160,000 veterans experienced homelessness over the course of the year (about 10% of the total homeless population).
  • Roughly 44,000 to 66,000 veterans are experiencing chronic homelessness.
  • Nearly one-half of all homeless veterans on a single night were located in just four states: California, Florida, New York, and Texas.
  • Almost all of sheltered homeless veterans are single adults, however 4% are part of families. They tend to be younger, African-American, and female.

The FY 2009 VA CHALENG Report estimated that:

  • 107,000 veterans are homeless on a given night
  • There was an 85% increase in the number of veteran families experiencing homelessness from the previous yearii.

In the 1996 NSHAPC, almost 25% of homeless clients were veterans.

Age, Gender & Race/Ethnicity

Veterans experiencing homelessness in shelters tend to be single male adults, older than their non-veteran peers, more likely to have a disability, and are equally likely to be white non-Hispanic as they are to be a minorityiii. Among the sheltered homeless veteran population:

  • 8.4% are between 18 and 30
  • 45% are between 31 and 50
  • 38.1% are between 51 and 61
  • 8.9% are 62 or olderiv
  • About 8% of sheltered homeless veterans are female, a number that has been increasing steadily since 2000v
  • Among all homeless women in the 1996 NHSAPC, 1% were veterans as compared to 33% veterans among homeless men
  • In a study of older homeless adults in Minnesota, 36% had served in the US military; 44% of older homeless men had servedvi
  • 49.2% are White, non-Hispanic/non-Latino
  • 34% are Black or African-American
  • 8.3% are White Hispanic/Latino
  • 3.4% are American Indian or Alaska Native
  • 5.1% are other racesvii

Risk Factors for Homelessness Among Veterans

Less than 1% of veterans are homeless, but certain groups of veterans are at particular risk for becoming homelessviii.

  • Gender/Age/Race
    • Although their numbers are small, women and people who are between the ages of 18 and 30 are subgroups of veterans who are at particularly high risk of becoming homeless.
    • Rates of homelessness are higher for veterans who identify as Hispanic, African-American, and Native American than for non-minority veterans.
  • Poverty
    • Ten percent of veterans living in poverty became homeless at some point during the year, compared to only 5% of non-veterans living in poverty.
    • Women veterans living in poverty are nearly 3 times more likely to be homeless than non-veteran women living in poverty
    • Young veterans (ages 18 – 30) living in poverty are nearly 3 times more likely to be homeless than non-veteran adults living in poverty
    • About 1 in 4 Hispanic and African-American veterans living in poverty become homelessix.

Serious Mental Illness, Traumatic Stress, & Substance Use

  • About 45% of homeless veterans experience mental illness
  • 70% experience alcohol or other drug abuse problems
  • Many experience bothx

As the number of female and male veterans1 returning from active duty grows, those who experience homelessness may suffer from combat-related trauma, military sexual trauma, and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) in addition other traumatic stressors.

  • Among veterans screened for TBI, over 80% had psychiatric diagnosesxi
  • Compared to those who screened negative for TBI, those who screened positive2 also had PTSD three times more often and depression and substance use two times more oftenxii
  • Data from 2007 show that one in five (21%) women veterans screened positive for Military Sexual Trauma, as compared to 1% of men veterans
  • Among veterans who screened positive for Military Sexual Trauma, the likelihood of a mental health diagnosis was 2-3 times greaterxiii

View the HRC's additional factsheets:



Publication Date: 
Rockville, MD, USA