Veterans and Homelessness
Veterans and Homelessness
Updated April 4, 2008
Analyst in Housing
Domestic Social Policy Division
Veterans and Homelessness
The current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought renewed attention
to the needs of veterans, including the needs of homeless veterans. The Department
of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that it has served approximately 400 returning
veterans in its homeless programs and has identified over 1,500 more as being at risk
of homelessness. Both male and female veterans are overrepresented in the homeless
population, and as the number of veterans increases due to the current wars, there is
concern that the number of homeless veterans could rise commensurately.
Congress has created numerous programs that serve homeless veterans
specifically, almost all of which are funded through the Veterans Health
Administration. These programs provide health care and rehabilitation services for
homeless veterans (the Health Care for Homeless Veterans and Domiciliary Care for
Homeless Veterans programs), employment assistance (Homeless Veterans
Reintegration Program and Compensated Work Therapy program), transitional
housing (Grant and Per Diem and Loan Guarantee programs) as well as other
supportive services. Through an arrangement with the Department of Housing and
Urban Development (HUD), approximately 1,000 veterans currently use dedicated
Section 8 vouchers for permanent housing, with supportive services provided through
the VA. These are referred to as HUD-VASH vouchers. In FY2007, it is estimated
that approximately $282 million was used to fund programs targeted to homeless
Several issues regarding veterans and homelessness have become prominent,
in part because of the current conflicts. One issue is the need for permanent
supportive housing for low-income and homeless veterans. With the exception of
HUD-VASH vouchers, there is no source of permanent housing specifically for
veterans. In FY2007, the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and Information
Technology Act (P.L. 109-461) authorized funding for additional HUD-VASH
vouchers. Although these vouchers were not initially funded, the FY2008
Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-161) included $75 million for Section 8
vouchers for homeless veterans. In addition, proposed legislation in the 110th
Congress would both fund additional vouchers and provide resources for the
acquisition, rehabilitation, and construction of permanent supportive housing for very
low-income veterans and their families.
A second emerging issue is the concern that veterans returning from Iraq and
Afghanistan who are at risk of homelessness may not receive the services they need.
Efforts are being made to coordinate services between the VA and Department of
Defense to ensure that those leaving military service transition to VA programs.
Another emerging issue is the needs of female veterans, whose numbers are
increasing. Women veterans face challenges that could contribute to their risks of
homelessness. They are more likely to have experienced sexual abuse than women
in the general population and are more likely than male veterans to be single parents.
Few homeless programs for veterans have the facilities to provide separate
accommodations for women and women with children.
In troduction ......................................................1
Overview of Veterans and Homelessness...............................2
Definition of “Homeless Veteran”.................................3
Counts of Homeless Veterans....................................3
The Department of Veterans Affairs...........................3
The Department of Housing and Urban Development.............5
Characteristics of Homeless Veterans..............................6
Overrepresentation of Veterans in the Homeless Population................7
Overrepresentation of Male Veterans .............................8
Overrepresentation of Female Veterans ............................9
Why Are Veterans Overrepresented in the Homeless Population?.......11
Factors Present During and After Military Service...............11
Factors that Pre-Date Military Service.........................13
Federal Programs that Serve Homeless Veterans........................14
The Department of Veterans Affairs..............................17
Health Care for Homeless Veterans...........................17
Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans......................18
Compensated Work Therapy/Therapeutic Residence Program......18
Grant and Per Diem Program................................19
HUD-VAS H .............................................21
Loan Guarantee for Multifamily Transitional Housing Program.....23
Acquired Property Sales for Homeless Veterans.................24
The Department of Labor.......................................24
Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program.....................24
Permanent Supportive Housing..................................27
Veterans of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.......................28
List of Tables
Table 1. Results from Four Studies: Veterans as a Percentage of the
Homeless Population and Likelihood of Experiencing Homelessness....10
Table 2. Funding for Selected Homeless Veterans Programs,
FY1988 - FY2008............................................15
Veterans and Homelessness
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought renewed attention to the needs
of veterans, including the needs of homeless veterans. Homeless veterans initially
came to the country’s attention in the 1970s and 1980s, when homelessness generally
was becoming a more prevalent and noticeable phenomenon. The first section of this
report defines the term “homeless veteran,” discusses attempts to count homeless
veterans, and presents the results of studies regarding the characteristics of homeless
At the same time that the number of homeless persons began to grow, it became
clear through various analyses of homeless individuals that homeless veterans are
overrepresented in the homeless population. The second section of this report
summarizes the available research regarding the overrepresentation of both male and
female veterans, who are present in greater percentages in the homeless population
than their percentages in the general population. This section also reviews research
regarding possible explanations for why homeless veterans are overrepresented.
In response to the issue of homelessness among veterans, the federal
government has created numerous programs to fund services and transitional housing
specifically for homeless veterans. The third section of this report discusses eight of
these programs. The majority of programs are funded through the Department of
Veterans Affairs (VA). Within the VA, the Veterans Health Administration (VHA),
which is responsible for the health care of veterans, operates all but one of the
programs for homeless veterans. The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA),
which is responsible for compensation, pensions, educational assistance, home loan
guarantees, and insurance, operates the other. In addition, the Department of Labor
operates one program for homeless veterans. In FY2007, approximately $282
million funded the majority of programs targeted to homeless veterans.
Several issues regarding homelessness among veterans have become prominent
since the beginning of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The fourth section of
this report discusses three of these emerging issues. The first is the need for
permanent supportive housing for homeless and low-income veterans. A second
issue is ensuring that an adequate transition process exists for returning veterans to
assist them with issues that might put them at risk of homelessness. Third is the
concern that adequate services might not exist to serve the needs of women veterans.
This report will be updated when new statistical information becomes available and
to reflect programmatic changes.
Overview of Veterans and Homelessness
Homelessness has always existed in the United States, but only in recent
decades has the issue come to prominence. In the 1970s and 1980s, the number of
homeless persons increased, as did their visibility. Experts cite various causes for the
increase in homelessness. These include the demolition of single room occupancy
dwellings in so-called “skid rows” where transient single men lived, the decreased
availability of affordable housing generally, the reduced need for seasonal unskilled
labor, the reduced likelihood that relatives will accommodate homeless family
members, the decreased value of public benefits, and changed admissions standards
at mental hospitals.1 The increased visibility of homeless persons was due, in part,
to the decriminalization of actions such as public drunkenness, loitering, and
Homelessness occurs among families with children and single individuals, in
rural communities as well as large urban cities, and for varying periods of time.
Depending on circumstances, periods of homelessness may vary from days to years.
Researchers have created three categories of homelessness based on the amount of
time that individuals are homeless.3 First, the transitionally homeless are those who
have one short stay in a homeless shelter before returning to permanent housing. In
the second category, those who are episodically homeless frequently move in and out
of homelessness but do not remain homeless for long periods of time. Third, the
chronically homeless are those who are homeless continuously for a period of one
year or have at least four episodes of homelessness in three years. Chronically
homeless individuals often suffer from mental illness and/or substance abuse
disorders. Although veterans experience all types of homelessness, they are thought
to be chronically homeless in higher numbers than nonveterans.4
Homeless veterans began to come to the attention of the public at the same time
that homelessness generally was becoming more common. News accounts
chronicled the plight of veterans who had served their country but were living (and
1 Peter H. Rossi, Down and Out in America: The Origins of Homelessness (Chicago: The
University of Chicago Press, 1989), 181-194, 41. See, also, Martha Burt, Over the Edge:
The Growth of Homelessness in the 1980s (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1992), 31-
2 Down and Out in America, p. 34; Over the Edge, p. 123.
3 See Randall Kuhn and Dennis P. Culhane, “Applying Cluster Analysis to Test a Typology
of Homelessness by Pattern of Shelter Utilization: Results from the Analysis of
Administrative Data,” American Journal of Community Psychology 26, no. 2 (April 1998):
4 Martha R. Burt, Laudan Y. Aron et al., Homelessness: Programs and the People They
Serve, Technical Report, Urban Institute, December 1999, p. 11-1, available at
[http://www.huduser.org/Publications/pdf/home_tech/tchap-11.pdf]. Of homeless male
veterans surveyed, 32% reported being homeless for 13 or more months, versus 17% of
nonveteran homeless men.
dying) on the street.5 The commonly held notion that the military experience
provides young people with job training, educational and other benefits, as well as
the maturity needed for a productive life, conflicted with the presence of veterans
among the homeless population.6
Definition of “Homeless Veteran”
Although the term “homeless veteran” might appear straightforward, it contains
two layers of definition.7 First, the definition of “veteran” for purposes of Title 38
benefits (the Title of the United States Code that governs veterans benefits) is a
person who “served in the active military, naval, or air service” and was not
dishonorably discharged.8 In order to be a “veteran” who is eligible for benefits
according to this definition, at least four criteria must be met. (For a detailed
discussion of these criteria see CRS Report RL33113, Veterans Affairs: Basic
Eligibility for Disability Benefit Program, by Douglas Reid Weimer.)
Second, veterans are considered homeless if they meet the definition of
“homeless individual” established by the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act
(P.L. 100-77).9 According to McKinney-Vento, a homeless individual is (1) an
individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence, and (2) a
person who has a nighttime residence that is:
!a supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to
provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels,
congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill);
!an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals
intended to be institutionalized; or
!a public or private place not designed for, nor ordinarily used as, a
regular sleeping accommodation for human beings.
Counts of Homeless Veterans
The Department of Veterans Affairs. The exact number of homeless
veterans is unknown, although attempts have been made to estimate their numbers.
In every year since 1998, the VA has included estimates of the number of homeless
veterans receiving services in its “Community Homelessness Assessment, Local
5 Marjorie J. Robertson, “Homeless Veterans, An Emerging Problem?” in The Homeless in
Contemporary Society, ed. Richard J. Bingham, Roy E. Green, and Sammis B. White
(Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1987), 66.
6 Ibid., pp. 64-65.
7 The United States Code defines the term as “a veteran who is homeless” as defined by the
McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. 38 U.S.C. §2002(1).
8 12 U.S.C. §101(2).
9 The McKinney-Vento definition of homeless individual is codified at 42 U.S.C. 11302(a).
Education and Networking Groups” (CHALENG) report to Congress.10 The
estimates are made as part of the CHALENG process, through which representatives
from each local VA medical center called “points of contact” (POCs) coordinate with
service providers from state and local governments and nonprofit organizations as
well as homeless or formerly homeless veterans themselves to determine the needs
of homeless veterans and plan for how to best deliver services.
CHALENG Estimates FY1998-FY2006. In the first six years of
CHALENG estimates (FY1998 through FY2003), the VA asked POCs to estimate
the number of veterans homeless at any time during the year. Starting in FY2004
and continuing through FY2006, the VA changed its methodology, and asked POCs
from each medical center to provide estimates of the highest number of veterans who
are homeless on any given day during the year. The new methodology used in the
FY2004-FY2006 CHALENG estimates is a point-in-time count and is not meant to
reflect the total number of veterans who might experience homelessness at some time
during the year. The VA considers the estimates from FY2004 to FY2006 to be more11
reliable than earlier estimates.
CHALENG Estimate FY2007. During the FY2007 CHALENG process, the
VA again asked POCs to provide a point-in-time estimate, just as they had in
FY2004-FY2006. However, for the first time, the VA asked that POC estimates of
homeless veterans coincide with the Department of Housing and Urban Development
(HUD) counts of homeless individuals. Every other year HUD directs local
jurisdictions called “Continuums of Care” (CoCs)12 to conduct a count of sheltered
and unsheltered homeless persons on one night during the last week of January
(though some CoCs conduct counts every year). The most recent HUD count in
which all CoCs participated took place in January 2007.
To arrive at the FY2007 CHALENG estimate, POCs estimated the number of
veterans experiencing homelessness on one night during the same one-week period
used by HUD. In order to bring the VA count in line with HUD estimates, POCs
compared their 2007 estimates to the 2005 HUD estimates (the most recent data
available at that time); if there were “major differences” between the two estimates,
10 For the most recent CHALENG report, see John H. Kuhn and John Nakashima, The
Fourteenth Annual Progress Report on Public Law 105-114: Services for Homeless
Veterans Assessment and Coordination, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, February 28,
2008 (hereafter Fourteenth Annual CHALENG Report). Congress required the VA to issue
the report as part of the Veterans Benefits Improvement Act of 1994, P.L. 103-446 (38
11 Government Accountability Office, Homeless Veterans Programs: Improved
Communications and Follow-up Could Further Enhance the Grant and Per Diem Program,
GAO-06-859, September 2006, p. 13, available at [http://www.gao.gov/new.items/
12 Continuums of Care are typically formed by cities, counties, or combinations of both.
Representatives from local government agencies and service provider organizations serve
on CoC boards, which conduct the business of the CoC. HUD first required these
Continuums of Care to conduct counts of sheltered and unsheltered homeless persons in
the POCs provided an explanation of why this might be the case.13 In some
jurisdictions, POC estimates were adjusted to be more consistent with HUD’s
estimates. In addition to consulting HUD estimates, some POCs (71%) used more
than one source to arrive at their estimates of homeless veterans. These included
U.S. Census data (10%), VA low-income population estimates (7%), local homeless
census studies (42%), VA client data (36%), estimates from local homeless
assistance providers (59%), and VA staff impressions (52%).14
The most recent CHALENG report estimated that 154,000 veterans were
homeless on one day during the last week of January 2007.15 This estimate is down
from 2006 and 2005 estimates of 195,827 and 194,254 respectively. The VA
hypothesizes that improved methodology, VA program interventions for homeless
veterans, and the changing demographics of the veteran population could account for
the reduction in the CHALENG estimate.16
The Department of Housing and Urban Development. In addition to
the CoC point-in-time counts, described above, HUD is engaged in an ongoing
process to count homeless persons, including homeless veterans, through its
Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS). Continuums of Care collect
and store information about homeless individuals they serve, and the information is
aggregated in computer systems at the CoC level. Eventually the HMIS initiative is
expected to produce an unduplicated count of homeless individuals as well as a
summary of demographic information. HUD has released two Annual Homeless
Assessment Reports (AHARs), in which it used HMIS data to estimate the number
of individuals nationwide who were homeless during particular periods of time. The
most recent AHAR was released in March 2008 and estimated the number of
individuals who experienced homelessness at some point during a six-month period,
from January 1 to June 30, 2006.17 These estimates did not include homeless persons
who were not residing in emergency shelters or transitional housing during the
relevant time periods.
The first and seconds AHARs did not provide estimates of the number of
homeless veterans, though they did provide estimates of the percentage of the adult
homeless population who are veterans. There are limitations to these data, however.
The second AHAR estimated that 14.3% of adults who were homeless during the six-
month period from January 1 to June 30, 2006, were veterans (while 11.2% of the18
general population were veterans). These data do not include persons living on the
street or other location not meant for human habitation. In addition, 20% of records
13 Fourteenth Annual CHALENG Report, p. 16.
14 Ibid., pp. 16-17.
15 Ibid., p. 16.
16 Ibid., pp. 16-17.
17 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The Second Annual Homeless
Assessment Report to Congress, March 2008, available at [http://www.hudhre.info/
18 Ibid., p. 23.
were missing data on veteran status. The first AHAR estimated that 18.7% of the
homeless population were veterans (compared to 12.6% of the general population)
in the three-month period between February 1 and April 30, 2005. Of the records
submitted, 35% were missing information on veteran status.19 (For more information
about efforts to count homeless persons, see CRS Report RL33956, Counting
Homeless Persons: Homeless Management Information Systems, by Libby Perl.)
Characteristics of Homeless Veterans
Homeless male veterans differ from homeless men who are nonveterans in a
variety of ways. According to data from several studies during the 1980s, homeless
male veterans were more likely to be older and better educated than the general
population of homeless men.20 However, they were found to have more health
problems than nonveteran homeless men, including AIDS, cancer, and
hypertension.21 They also suffered from mental illness and alcohol abuse at higher
rates than nonveterans. A study published in 2002 found similar results regarding
age and education. Homeless male veterans tended to be older, on average, than
nonveteran homeless men.22 Homeless veterans were also different in that they had
reached higher levels of education than their nonveteran counterparts23 and were
more likely to be working for pay. They were also more likely to have been homeless
for more than one year, and more likely to be dependent on or abuse alcohol. Family
backgrounds among homeless veterans tended to be more stable, with veterans
experiencing less family instability24 and fewer incidents of conduct disorder,25 while
also being less likely to have never married than nonveteran homeless men.
Homeless women veterans have also been found to have different characteristics
than nonveteran homeless women. Based on data collected during the late 1990s,
female veterans, like male veterans, were found to have reached higher levels of
education than nonveteran homeless women, and also more likely to have been
19 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, The Annual Homeless Assessment
Report to Congress, February 2007, p. 31, available at [http://www.huduser.org/
20 “Homeless Veterans,” pp. 104-105.
21 Ibid., p. 105.
22 Richard Tessler, Robert Rosenheck, and Gail Gamache, “Comparison of Homeless
Veterans with Other Homeless Men in a Large Clinical Outreach Program,” Psychiatric
Quarterly 73, no. 2 (Summer 2002): 113-114.
23 Veterans averaged 12.43 years of education completed, versus 11.21 for nonveterans.
24 Family instability is measured by factors that include parental separation or divorce and
time spent in foster care.
25 Conduct disorder is measured by factors such as school suspensions, expulsions, drinking,
using drugs, stealing, and fighting.
employed in the 30 days prior to being surveyed.26 They also had more stable family
backgrounds, and lower rates of conduct disorder as children.
Overrepresentation of Veterans
in the Homeless Population
Research that has captured information about the entire national homeless
population, including veteran status, is rare. Although HUD is engaged in ongoing
efforts to collect information about homeless individuals, the most extensive
information about homeless veterans specifically comes from earlier studies.
Possibly the most comprehensive national data collection effort regarding persons
experiencing homelessness took place in 1996 as part of the National Survey of
Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (NSHAPC), when researchers
interviewed thousands of homeless assistance providers and homeless individuals
across the country.27 Prior to the NSHAPC, in 1987, researchers from the Urban
Institute surveyed nearly 2,000 homeless individuals and clients in large cities
nationwide as part of a national study.28 The data from these two surveys serve as the
basis for more in depth research regarding homeless veterans, described below. No
matter the data source, however, research has found that veterans make up a greater
percentage of the homeless population than their percentage in the general
Both male and female veterans are more likely to be homeless than their
nonveteran counterparts.29 This has not always been the case, however. Although
veterans have always been present among the homeless population, the birth cohorts
that served in the military more recently, from the Vietnam30 and post-Vietnam eras,
have been found to be overrepresented. Veterans of World War II and Korea are less
26 Gail Gamache, Robert Rosenheck, and Richard Tessler, “Overrepresentation of Women
Veterans Among Homeless Women,” American Journal of Public Health 93, no. 7 (July
2003): 1133-1134 (hereafter “Overrepresentation of Women Veterans Among Homeless
27 Martha R. Burt, Laudan Y. Aron, et al., Homelessness: Programs and the People They
Serve: Findings of the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients,
Technical Report, December 1999, available at [http://www.huduser.org/publications/
28 Martha R. Burt and Barbara E. Cohen, America’s Homeless: Numbers, Characteristics,
and Programs that Serve Them (Washington, DC: The Urban Institute Press, July 1989).
29 See Gail Gamache, Robert Rosenheck, and Richard Tessler, “The Proportion of Veterans
Among Homeless Men: A Decade Later,” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
36, no. 10 (October 2001): 481 (hereafter “The Proportion of Homeless Veterans Among
Men: A Decade Later”). “Overrepresentation of Women Veterans Among Homeless
Women,” p. 1134.
30 Generally, the Vietnam era is defined as the period from 1964 to 1975. 38 U.S.C.
likely to be homeless than their nonveteran counterparts.31 (The same cohort effect
is not as evident for women veterans.) Four studies of homeless veterans, two of
male veterans and two of female veterans, provide evidence of this
overrepresentation and increased likelihood of experiencing homelessness.
Overrepresentation of Male Veterans
Two national studies — one published in 1994 using data from the 1987 Urban
Institute survey (as well as data from surveys in Los Angeles, Baltimore, and
Chicago), and the other published in 2001 using data from the 1996 NSHAPC —
found that male veterans were overrepresented in the homeless population. In
addition, researchers in both studies determined that the likelihood of homelessness
depended on the ages of veterans.32 During both periods of time, the odds of a
veteran being homeless was highest for veterans who had enlisted after the military
transitioned to an all-volunteer force (AVF) in 1973. These veterans were age 20-34
at the time of the first study, and age 35-44 at the time of the second study.
In the first study, researchers found that 41% of adult homeless men were
veterans, compared to just under 34% of adult males in the general population.
Overall, male veterans were 1.4 times as likely to be homeless as nonveterans.33
Notably, though, those veterans who served after the Vietnam War were four times
more likely to be homeless than nonveterans in the same age group.34 Vietnam era
veterans, who are often thought to be the most overrepresented group of homeless
veterans, were barely more likely to be homeless than nonveterans (1.01 times). (See
Table 1 for a breakdown of the likelihood of homelessness based on age.)
In the second study, researchers found that nearly 33% of adult homeless men
were veterans, compared to 28% of males in the general population. Once again, the
likelihood of homelessness differed among age groups. Overall, male veterans were35
Vietnam birth cohort as that in the 1994 study was most at risk of homelessness;
those veterans in the cohort were over three times as likely to be homeless as
nonveterans in the same cohort. Younger veterans, those age 20-34 in 1996, were
two times as likely to be homeless as nonveterans. And Vietnam era veterans were
approximately 1.4 times as likely to be homeless as their nonveteran counterparts.
(See Table 1.)
31 Alvin S. Mares and Robert A. Rosenheck, “Perceived Relationship Between Military
Service and Homelessness Among Homeless Veterans with Mental Illness,” The Journal
of Nervous and Mental Disease 192, no. 10 (October 2004): 715.
32 See Robert Rosenheck, Linda Frisman, and An-Me Chung, “The Proportion of Veterans
Among Homeless Men,” American Journal of Public Health 84, no. 3 (March 1994): 466
(hereafter “The Proportion of Homeless Veterans Among Men”); “The Proportion of
Veterans Among Homeless Men: A Decade Later,” p. 481.
33 “The Proportion of Homeless Veterans Among Men,” p. 467.
35 “The Proportion of Homeless Veterans Among Men: A Decade Later,” p. 483.
Overrepresentation of Female Veterans
Like male veterans, women veterans are more likely to be homeless than women
who are not veterans. A study published in 2003 examined two data sources, one a
survey of mentally ill homeless women, and the other the NSHAPC, and found that
respectively (compared to approximately 1.3% of the general population).36
Although the likelihood of homelessness was different for each of the two surveyed
populations, the study estimated that female veterans were between two and four
times as likely to be homeless as their nonveteran counterparts.37 Unlike male
veterans, all birth cohorts were more likely to be homeless than nonveterans.
However, with the exception of women veterans age 35-55 (representing the post-
Vietnam era), who were between approximately 3.5 and 4.0 times as likely to be
homeless as nonveterans, cohort data were not consistent between the two surveys.
(See Table 1 for a breakdown of likelihood of homelessness by cohort.)
36 “Overrepresentation of Women Veterans Among Homeless Women,” p. 1133.
37 Ibid., p. 1134.
Table 1. Results from Four Studies: Veterans as a
Percentage of the Homeless Population and
Likelihood of Experiencing Homelessness
Veterans as aVeterans as aOdds Ratio(Likelihood of
Veteran GroupPercentage ofthe GeneralPercentage of theHomelessHomelessness
PopulationaPopulationamong Veterans vs.Nonveterans)
Men (data 1986-87)b33.641.21.38
> Age 6446.337.40.71
Men (data 1996)c28.032.71.25
> Age 6462.659.50.88f
Women (data 1994-98)d126.96.36.199
Age 20-34 — — 3.61
Age 35-44 — — 3.48
Age 45-54 — — 4.42
Age 55 and Older — — 1.54f
Women (data 1996)e188.8.131.52
Age 20-34 — — 1.60f
Age 35-44 — — 3.98
Age 45-54 — — 2.00f
Age 55 and Older — — 4.40
Sources: Robert Rosenheck, Linda Frisman, and An-Me Chung, “The Proportion of Veterans Among
Homeless Men,” American Journal of Public Health 84, no. 3 (March 1994): 466-469; Gail Gamache,
Robert Rosenheck, and Richard Tessler, “The Proportion of Veterans Among Homeless Men: A
Decade Later,” Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology 36, no. 10 (October 2001): 481-485;
Gail Gamache, Robert Rosenheck, and Richard Tessler, “Overrepresentation of Women Veterans
Among Homeless Women,” American Journal of Public Health 93, no. 7 (July 2003): 1132-1136.
a. Data are from the Current Population Survey.
b. Data are from the Urban Institute Study and three community surveys conducted between 1985 and
c. Data are from the National Survey of Homeless Assistance Providers and Clients (NSHAPC).
d. Data are from the Access to Community Care and Effective Services and Supports sample of
women with mental illness.
e. Data are from the NSHAPC.
f. Not statistically significant.
Why Are Veterans Overrepresented in
the Homeless Population?
As the number of homeless veterans has grown, researchers have attempted to
explain why veterans are homeless in higher proportions than their numbers in the
general population. Factors present both prior to military service, and those that
developed during or after service, have been found to be associated with veterans’
Most of the evidence about factors associated with homelessness among
veterans comes from The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS)38
conducted from 1984 to 1988. Researchers for the NVVRS surveyed 1,600
Vietnam theater veterans (those serving in Vietnam, Cambodia, or Laos) and 730
Vietnam era veterans (who did not serve in the theater) to determine their mental
health status and their ability to readjust to civilian life. The NVVRS did not
specifically analyze homelessness. However, a later study, published in 1994, used
data from the NVVRS to examine homelessness specifically.39 Findings from both
studies are discussed below.
Factors Present During and After Military Service. Although
researchers have not found that military service alone is associated with
homelessness,40 it may be associated with other factors that contribute to
homelessness. The NVVRS found an indirect connection between the stress that
occurs as a result of deployment and exposure to combat, or “war-zone stress,” and
homelessness. Vietnam theater and era veterans who experienced war-zone stress
were found to have difficulty readjusting to civilian life, resulting in higher levels of
problems that included social isolation, violent behavior, and, for white male
The 1994 study of Vietnam era veterans (hereafter referred to as the
Rosenheck/Fontana study) evaluated 18 variables that could be associated with
homelessness. The study categorized each variable in one of four groups, according
to when they occurred in the veteran’s life: pre-military, military, the one-year
38 The NVVRS was undertaken at the direction of Congress as part of P.L. 98-160, the
Veterans Health Care Amendments of 1983.
39 Robert Rosenheck and Alan Fontana, “A Model of Homelessness Among Male Veterans
of the Vietnam War Generation,” The American Journal of Psychiatry 151, no. 3 (March
1994): 421-427 (hereafter “A Model of Homelessness Among Male Veterans of the Vietnam
40 See, for example, Alvin S. Mares and Robert Rosenheck, “Perceived Relationship
Between Military Service and Homelessness Among Homeless Veterans With Mental
Illness,” Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 192, no. 10 (October 2004): 715.
41 Richard A. Kulka, John A. Fairbank, B. Kathleen Jordan, and Daniel S. Weiss, Trauma
and the Vietnam War Generation: Report of Findings from the National Vietnam Veterans
Readjustment Study (Levittown, PA: Brunner/Mazel, 1990), 142.
readjustment period, and the post-military period subsequent to readjustment.42
Variables from each time period were found to be associated with homelessness,
although their effects varied. The two military factors — combat exposure and
participation in atrocities — did not have a direct relationship to homelessness.
However, those two factors did contribute to (1) low levels of social support upon
returning home, (2) psychiatric disorders (not including Post Traumatic Stress
Disorder (PTSD)), (3) substance abuse disorders, and (4) being unmarried (including
separation and divorce). Each of these four post-military variables, in turn,
contributed directly to homelessness.43 In fact, social isolation, measured by low
levels of support in the first year after discharge from military service, together with
the status of being unmarried, had the strongest association with homelessness of the
Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Researchers have not found a
direct relationship between PTSD and homelessness. The Rosenheck/Fontana study
“found no unique association between combat-related PTSD and homelessness.”45
Unrelated research has determined that homeless combat veterans were no more
likely to be diagnosed with PTSD than combat veterans who were not homeless.46
However, the NVVRS found that PTSD was significantly related to other psychiatric
disorders, substance abuse, problems in interpersonal relationships, and47
unemployment. These conditions can lead to readjustment difficulties and are
considered risk factors for homelessness.48
42 The first category consisted of nine factors: year of birth, belonging to a racial or ethnic
minority, childhood poverty, parental mental illness, experience of physical or sexual abuse
prior to age 18, other trauma, treatment for mental illness before age 18, placement in foster
care before age 16, and history of conduct disorder. The military category contained three
factors: exposure to combat, participation in atrocities, and non-military trauma. The
readjustment period consisted of two variables: accessibility to someone with whom to
discuss personal matters and the availability of material and social support (together these
two variables were termed low levels of social support). The final category contained four
factors: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), psychiatric disorders not including PTSD,
substance abuse, and unmarried status.
43 “A Model of Homelessness Among Male Veterans of the Vietnam War Generation,” p.
44 Ibid., p. 425.
45 “A Model of Homelessness Among Male Veterans of the Vietnam War Generation,” p.
46 Robert Rosenheck, Catherine A. Leda, Linda K. Frisman, Julie Lam, and An-Me Chung,
“Homeless Veterans” in Homelessness in America, ed. Jim Baumohl (Phoenix, AZ: Oryx
Press, 1996), 99 (hereafter “Homeless Veterans”).
47 Robert Rosenheck, Catherine Leda, and Peggy Gallup, “Combat Stress, Psychosocial
Adjustment, and Service Use Among Homeless Vietnam Veterans,” Hospital and
Community Psychiatry 42, no. 2 (February 1992): 148.
48 “Homeless Veterans,” p. 98.
Factors that Pre-Date Military Service. According to research, factors that
predate military service also play a role in homelessness among veterans. The
Rosenheck/Fontana study found that three variables present in the lives of veterans
before they joined the military had a significant direct relationship to homelessness.
These were exposure to physical or sexual abuse prior to age 18; exposure to other
traumatic experiences, such as experiencing a serious accident or natural disaster, or49
seeing someone killed; and placement in foster care prior to age 16. The
researchers also found that a history of conduct disorder had a substantial indirect50
effect on homelessness. Conduct disorder includes behaviors such as being
suspended or expelled from school, involvement with law enforcement, or having
poor academic performance. Another pre-military variable that might contribute to
homelessness among veterans is a lack of family support prior to enlistment.51
The conditions present in the lives of veterans prior to military service, and the
growth of homelessness among veterans, have been tied to the institution of the all
volunteer force (AVF) in 1973. As discussed earlier in this report, the
overrepresentation of veterans in the homeless population is most prevalent in the
birth cohort that joined the military after the Vietnam War. It is possible that higher
rates of homelessness among these veterans are due to “lowered recruitment
standards during periods where military service was not held in high regard.”52
Individuals who joined the military during the time after the implementation of the
AVF might have been more likely to have characteristics that are risk factors for53
49 “A Model of Homelessness Among Male Veterans of the Vietnam War Generation,” p.
51 Richard Tessler, Robert Rosenheck, and Gail Gamache, “Homeless Veterans of the All-
Volunteer Force: A Social Selection Perspective,” Armed Forces & Society 29, no. 4
(Summer 2003): 511 (hereafter “Homeless Veterans of the All-Volunteer Force: A Social
52 Testimony of Robert Rosenheck, M.D., Director of Northeast Program Evaluation Center,
Department of Veterans Affairs, Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, 103rd Cong., 2nd
sess., February 23, 1994.
53 “Homeless Veterans of the All-Volunteer Force: A Social Selection Perspective,” p. 510.
Federal Programs that Serve Homeless Veterans
The federal response to the needs of homeless veterans, like the federal response
to homelessness generally, began in the late 1980s. Congress, aware of the data
showing that veterans were disproportionately represented among homeless54
persons, began to hold hearings and enact legislation in the late 1980s. Among the
programs enacted were Health Care for Homeless Veterans, Domiciliary Care for
Homeless Veterans, and the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Projects. Also around
this time, the first (and only) national group dedicated to the cause of homeless
veterans, the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, was founded by service
providers that were concerned about the growing number of homeless veterans.
While homeless veterans are eligible for and receive services through programs
that are not designed specifically for homeless veterans, the VA funds multiple
programs to serve homeless veterans. The majority of homeless programs are run
through the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), which administers health care
programs for veterans.55 The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), which is5657
responsible for compensation and pensions, education assistance, home loan
guarantees,58 and insurance, operates one program for homeless veterans. In addition,
the Department of Labor (DOL) is responsible for one program that provides
employment services for homeless veterans. In FY2007, funding of approximately59
$282 million was provided for homeless veterans programs, eight of which are
summarized in this section. Table 2, below, shows historical funding levels for
seven of these eight programs.
54 Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs, Veterans’ Administration FY1988 Budget, the Vet
Center Program, and Homeless Veterans Issues, 100th Cong., 1st sess., S.Hrg. 100-350,
February 18 & 19, 1987, p. 2-6.
55 For more information about the VHA, see CRS Report RL33993, Veterans’ Health Care
Issues, by Sidath Viranga Panangala.
56 For more information about veterans benefits, see CRS Report RL33985, Veterans
Benefits: Issues in the 110th Congress, coordinated by Carol Davis.
57 For more information about educational assistance, see CRS Report RL33281,
Montgomery GI Bill Education Benefits: Analysis of College Prices and Federal Student
Aid Under the Higher Education Act, by Charmaine Mercer.
58 For more information about VA home loan guarantees, see CRS Report RS20533, VA-
Home Loan Guaranty Program: An Overview, by Bruce E. Foote and Meredith Peterson.
59 The amount of funding is based on FY2007 VA obligations for its homeless programs and
the amount appropriated for the Department of Labor’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration
Table 2. Funding for Selected Homeless Veterans Programs, FY1988 - FY2008
(dollars in thousands)
B udg et
O blig a t io ns Autho r ity
SelectedHealthDomiciliaryCompensatedGrant andHUD-VALoanGuarantee forHomeless
ProgramsFiscalCare forCare forWork Therapy/Per DiemSupportedMultifamilyVeterans
Yea r Homelessa Homeless Thera peut ic Program Housing Transitional Reintegratio n
Veterans Veterans Residence Housing Program
g/w199115,46115,750 — NANANA2,01833,229 cc
s.or199216,50016,500 — NA2,300NA1,36636,666
://wiki199538,585d38,9483,387 — d4,270NA107e85,297
http199638,433d41,1173,886 — d4,829NA088,265
199738,063d37,2143,628 — d4,958NA083,863
2008 f 74,802 80,738 22,375 107,180 7,786 660 23,620 317,161
Sources: Department of Veterans Affairs Budget Justifications, FY1989-FY2009, VA Office of Homeless Veterans Programs, Department of Labor
Budget Justifications FY1989-FY2009, and the FY2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act P.L. 110-161.
a. Health Care for Homeless Veterans was originally called the Homeless Chronically Mentally Ill veterans program. In 1992, the VA began to
use the title “Health Care for Homeless Veterans.”
b. Congress appropriated funds for the DCHV program for both FY1987 and FY1988 (P.L. 100-71), however, the VA obligated the entire amount
in FY1988. See VA Budget Summary for FY1989, Volume 2, Medical Benefits, p. 6-10.
c. For FY1991 and FY1992, funds from the Homeless Chronically Mentally Ill veterans program as well as substance abuse enhancement funds
were used for the Compensated Work Therapy/Therapeutic Residence program.
d. For FY1995 through FY1997, Grant and Per Diem funds were obligated with funds for the Health Care for Homeless Veterans program. VA
budget documents do not provide a separate breakdown of Grant and Per Diem Obligations.
e. Congress appropriated $5.011 million for HVRP in P.L. 103-333. However, a subsequent rescission in P.L. 104-19 reduced the amount.
f. The obligation amounts for FY2008 are estimates.
The Department of Veterans Affairs
The majority of programs that serve homeless veterans are part of the Veterans
Health Administration (VHA), one of the three major organizations within the VA
(the other two are the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) and the National
Cemetery Administration).60 The VHA operates hospitals and outpatient clinics
across the country through 21 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs). Each
VISN oversees between five and eleven VA hospitals as well as outpatient clinics,
nursing homes, and domiciliary care facilities. In all, there are 157 VA hospitals, 750
outpatient clinics, 134 nursing homes, and 42 domiciliary care facilities across the
country. Many services for homeless veterans are provided in these facilities. In
addition, the VBA has made efforts to coordinate with the VHA regarding homeless
veterans by placing Homeless Veteran Outreach Coordinators (HVOCs) in its offices
in order to assist homeless veterans in their applications for benefits.
Health Care for Homeless Veterans. The first federal program to
specifically address the needs of homeless veterans, Health Care for Homeless
Veterans (HCHV), was initially called the Homeless Chronically Mentally Ill
veterans program.61 The program was created as part of an emergency appropriations
act for FY1987 (P.L. 100-6) in which Congress allocated $5 million to the VA to
provide medical and psychiatric care in community-based facilities to homeless62
veterans suffering from mental illness. Through the HCHV program, VA medical
center staff conduct outreach to homeless veterans, provide care and treatment for
medical, psychiatric, and substance abuse disorders, and refer veterans to other
needed supportive services.63 Although P.L. 100-6 provided priority for veterans
whose illnesses were service-connected, veterans with non-service-connected
disabilities were also made eligible for the program. Within two months of the
program’s enactment, 43 VA Medical Centers had initiated programs to find and
assist mentally ill homeless veterans.64 The HCHV program is currently authorized65
through December 31, 2011.
Program Data. The HCHV program itself does not provide housing for
veterans who receive services. However, the VA was initially authorized to enter
60 For more information about the organization of the VA, see U.S. Department of Veterans
Affairs, Organizational Briefing Book, May 2007, available at [http://www.va.gov/
ofcadmi n/ViewPDF.asp?fT ype=1].
61 In 1992, the VA began to refer to the program by its new name. VA FY1994 Budget
Summary, Volume 2, Medical Benefits, p. 2-63.
62 Shortly after the HCHV program was enacted in P.L. 100-6, Congress passed another law
(P.L. 100-322) that repealed the authority in P.L. 100-6 and established the HCHV program
as a pilot program. The program was then made permanent in the Veterans Benefits Act of
63 38 U.S.C. §2031, §2034.
64 Veterans Administration, Report to Congress of member agencies of the Interagency
Council on Homelessness pursuant to Section 203(c)(1) of P.L. 100-77, October 15, 1987.
65 The program was most recently authorized in the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and
Information Technology Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-461).
into contracts with non-VA service providers to place veterans in residential
treatment facilities so that they would have a place to stay while receiving treatment.
In FY2003, the VA shifted funding from contracts with residential treatment facilities
to the VA Grant and Per Diem program (described later in this report).66 Local
funding for residential treatment facilities continues to be provided by some VA
medical center locations, however. According to the most recent data available from
the VA, 1,131 veterans stayed in residential treatment facilities in FY2006, with an
average stay of about 58 days.67 The HCHV program treated approximately 60,857
veterans in that same year.68
Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans. Domiciliary care consists of
rehabilitative services for physically and mentally ill or aged veterans who need
assistance, but are not in need of the level of care offered by hospitals and nursing
homes. Congress first provided funds for the Domiciliary Care program for homeless
veterans in 1987 through a supplemental appropriations act (P.L. 100-71). Prior to
enactment of P.L. 100-71, domiciliary care for veterans generally (now often referred
to as Residential Rehabilitation and Treatment programs) had existed since the
1860s. The program for homeless veterans was implemented to reduce the use of
more expensive inpatient treatment, improve health status, and reduce the likelihood
of homelessness through employment and other assistance. Congress has
appropriated funds for the DCHV program since its inception.
Program Data. The DCHV program operates at 38 VA medical centers and
has 1,991 beds available.69 In FY2006, the number of veterans completing treatment
was 5,282.70 Of those admitted to DCHV programs, 92.7% were diagnosed with a
substance abuse disorder, more than half (56.7%) were diagnosed with serious mental
illness, and 52.5% had both diagnoses.71 The average length of stay for veterans in
FY2006 was 104.4 days, in which they received medical, psychiatric and substance
abuse treatment, as well as vocational rehabilitation.
Compensated Work Therapy/Therapeutic Residence Program. The
Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) Program has existed at the VA in some form
since the 1930s.72 In the most current version of the program, the VA enters into
66 FY2004 VA Budget Justifications, p. 2-163.
67 Wesley J. Kasprow, Robert A. Rosenheck, Diane DiLello, Leslie Cavallaro, and Nicole
Harelik, Healthcare for Homeless Veterans Programs: Twentieth Annual Report, U.S.
Department of Veterans Affairs Northeast Program Evaluation Center, March 31, 2007, pp.
68 Ibid., p. 25.
69 Sandra G. Resnick, Robert Rosenheck, Sharon Medak, and Linda Corwel, Eighteenth
Progress Report on the Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans Program, FY2006, U.S.
Department of Veterans Affairs Northeast Program Evaluation Center, March 2007, p. 1.
70 Ibid., p. 9.
71 Ibid., p. 10.
72 Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, report to accompany S. 2908, 94th Cong., 2nd sess.,
contracts with private companies or nonprofit organizations that then provide
disabled veterans with work opportunities.73 Veterans must be paid wages
commensurate with those wages in the community for similar work, and through the
experience the goal is that participants will improve their chances of living
independently and reaching self sufficiency. Most CWT positions are semiskilled
or unskilled, and include work in clerical, retail, warehouse, manufacturing, and food
service positions.74 In 2003, the Veterans Health Care, Capital Asset, and Business
Improvement Act (P.L. 108-170) added work skills training, employment support
services, and job development and placement services to the activities authorized by
the CWT program. The VA estimates that approximately 14,000 veterans participate
in the CWT program each year.75 The CWT program is permanently authorized
through the VA’s Special Therapeutic and Rehabilitation Activities Fund.76
In 1991, as part of P.L. 102-54, the Veterans Housing, Memorial Affairs, and
Technical Amendments Act, Congress added the Therapeutic Transitional Housing
component to the CWT program. The purpose of the program is to provide housing
to participants in the CWT program who have mental illnesses or chronic substance
abuse disorders and who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.77 Although the law
initially provided that both the VA itself or private nonprofit organizations, through
contracts with the VA, could operate housing, the law was subsequently changed so
that only the VA now owns and operates housing.78 The housing is transitional —
up to 12 months — and veterans who reside there receive supportive services. As of
September 2006, the VA operated 66 transitional housing facilities with 520 beds.79
Grant and Per Diem Program. Initially called the Comprehensive Service
Programs, the Grant and Per Diem program was introduced as a pilot program in
The law establishing the Grant and Per Diem program, which was made permanent
in the Homeless Veterans Comprehensive Services Act of 2001 (P.L. 107-95),
authorizes the VA to make grants to public entities or private nonprofit organizations
S.Rept. 94-1206, September 9, 1976.
73 The Compensated Work Therapy program was authorized in P.L. 87-574 as “Therapeutic
and Rehabilitative Activities.” It was substantially amended in P.L. 94-581, and is
codified at 38 U.S.C. §1718.
74 VA Veterans Industry/Compensated Work Therapy web pages, available at
75 VA Fact Sheet, “VA Programs for Homeless Veterans,” September 2006 (hereafter “VA
Programs for Homeless Veterans”).
76 38 U.S.C. §1718(c).
77 The VA’s authority to operate therapeutic housing is codified at 38 U.S.C. §2032.
78 The provision for nonprofits was in P.L. 102-54, but was repealed by P.L. 105-114,
79 “VA Programs for Homeless Veterans.”
to provide services and transitional housing to homeless veterans.80 For the last four
fiscal years (FY2004-FY2007) the Grant and Per Diem program has received more
funding than any of the other eight VA programs that are targeted to homeless
veterans (see Table 2). The Grant and Per Diem program is permanently authorized
at $130 million (P.L. 109-461).
The program has two parts: grant and per diem. Eligible grant recipients may
apply for funding for one or both parts. The grants portion provides capital grants to
purchase, rehabilitate, or convert facilities so that they are suitable for use as either
service centers or transitional housing facilities. The capital grants will fund up to81
65% of the costs of acquisition, expansion or remodeling of facilities. Grants may
also be used to procure vans for outreach and transportation of homeless veterans.
The per diem portion of the program reimburses grant recipients for the costs of
providing housing and supportive services to homeless veterans. The supportive
services that grantees may provide include outreach activities, food and nutrition
services, health care, mental health services, substance abuse counseling, case
management, child care, assistance in obtaining housing, employment counseling, job
training and placement services, and transportation assistance.82 Organizations may
apply for per diem funds alone (without capital grant funds), as long as they would
be eligible to apply for and receive capital grants.
Program Rules and Data. The per diem portion of the Grant and Per Diem
program pays organizations for the housing that they provide to veterans at a fixed
dollar rate for each bed that is occupied.83 Organizations apply to be reimbursed for
the cost of care provided, not to exceed the current per diem rate for domiciliary care.
The per diem rate increases periodically; the FY2007 rate is $31.30 per day.84 The
per diem portion of the program also compensates grant recipients for the services
they provide to veterans at service centers. Grantee organizations are paid at an
hourly rate of one eighth of either the cost of services or the domiciliary care per
diem rate, however organizations cannot be reimbursed for both housing and services
provided to the same individual. Organizations are paid by the hour for each veteran
served for up to eight hours per day. Any per diem payments are offset by other
funds that the grant recipient receives. The Advisory Committee on Homeless
Veterans has recommended that the per diem reimbursement system be revised to
take account of actual service costs instead of using a capped rate.85 Legislation has
been introduced in the 110th Congress that would make changes to the way in which
grant recipients are reimbursed. For more information about proposed legislation,
80 The Grant and Per Diem program is codified at 38 U.S.C. §§2011-2013.
81 38 U.S.C. §2011(c).
82 38 CFR §61.1.
83 38 CFR §61.33.
84 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Department of Geriatrics and Extended Care,
Description of the State Veterans Home Program, available at [http://www1.va.gov/
ge riatricsshg/ docs/FY07ST AT EV E T HOMEPROGRAM History.doc].
85 Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans Fifth Annual Report, p. 11.
see CRS Report RL30442, Homelessness: Targeted Federal Programs and Recent
Legislation, by Libby Perl et al.
According to the most recent data available from the VA, in FY2006 the Grant
and Per Diem program funded more than 300 service providers. These providers had
a total of 8,200 beds available and served more than 15,000 homeless veterans.86
According to a 2006 Government Accountability Office report, an additional 9,600
Grant and Per Diem transitional beds are needed to meet the demand.87 The VA has
stated that an additional 3,000 beds are expected to become available once
construction and renovation of various facilities is completed.88
Grant and Per Diem for Homeless Veterans with Special Needs. In
2001, Congress created a demonstration program to target grant and per diem funds
to specific groups of veterans (P.L. 107-95). These groups include women, women
with children, the frail elderly, those veterans with terminal illnesses, and those with
chronic mental illnesses. The program was initially authorized at $5 million per year
for FY2003 through FY2005. P.L. 109-461, enacted on December 22, 2006,
reauthorized the program for FY2007 through FY2011 at $7 million per year.
HUD-VASH. Beginning in 1992, through a collaboration between HUD and
the VA, funding for approximately 1,753 Section 8 vouchers was made available for
use by homeless veterans with severe psychiatric or substance abuse disorders.89
Section 8 vouchers are subsidies used by families to rent apartments in the private
rental market.90 Through the program, called HUD-VA Supported Housing (HUD-
VASH), local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) administer the Section 8 vouchers
while local VA medical centers provide case management and clinical services to
participating veterans. HUD distributed the vouchers to PHAs through three
competitions, in 1992, 1993, and 1994. Prior to issuing the vouchers, HUD and the
VA had identified medical centers with Domiciliary Care and Health Care for
Homeless Veterans programs that were best suited to providing services. PHAs
within the geographic areas of the VA medical centers were invited to apply for
vouchers. In the first year that HUD issued vouchers, 19 PHAs were eligible to
apply, and by the third year the list of eligible VA medical centers and PHAs had
86 Healthcare for Homeless Veterans Programs: Twentieth Annual Report, p. 154.
87 Government Accountability Office, Homeless Veterans Programs: Improved
Communications and Follow-up Could Further Enhance the Grant and Per Diem Program,
September 2006, p. 12, available at [http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d06859.pdf].
88 Statement of Pete Dougherty, Director, Homeless Veterans Programs, Department of
Veterans Affairs, House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Subcommittee on Health, U.S.thst
Department of Veterans Affairs Grant and Per Diem Program, 110 Cong., 1 sess.,
September 27, 2007.
89 The first announcement of voucher availability was announced in the Federal Register.
See U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, “Invitation for FY1992 Section
8 Rental Voucher Set-Aside for Homeless Veterans with Severe Psychiatric or Substance
Abuse Disorders,” Federal Register vol. 57, no. 55, p. 9955, March 20, 1992.
90 For more information about Section 8 in general, see CRS Report RL32284, An Overview
of the Section 8 Housing Programs, by Maggie McCarty.
expanded to 87.91 HUD does not separately track these vouchers. However, the VA
keeps statistics on veterans with vouchers who receive treatment thourgh the VA.
In FY2006, 1,238 veterans with HUD-VASH vouchers received treatment during the
course of the year, with 1,028 veterans still receiving treatment at the end of that
In 2001, Congress codified the HUD-VASH program (P.L. 107-95) and
authorized the creation of an additional 500 vouchers for each year from FY2003
through FY2006.93 A bill enacted at the end of the 109th Congress (P.L. 109-461)
also provided the authorization for additional HUD-VASH vouchers. However, not
until FY2008 did Congress provide funding for additional vouchers: the
Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-161) included $75 million for Section 8
vouchers for homeless veterans. HUD has estimated that this will fund between
9,000 and 10,000 additional vouchers.94 The Administration has also requested an
additional $75 million for HUD-VASH vouchers in FY2009.95
Program Evaluations. Long-term evaluations of the HUD-VASH program
have shown both improved housing and improved substance abuse outcomes among96
veterans who received the vouchers over those who did not. Veterans who received
vouchers experienced fewer days of homelessness and more days housed than
veterans who received intensive case management assistance or standard care through
VA homeless programs alone.97 Analysis also found that veterans with HUD-VASH
vouchers had fewer days of alcohol use, fewer days on which they drank to
91 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, “Funding Availability (NOFA) for
the Section 8 Set-Aside for Homeless Veterans with Severe Psychiatric or Substance Abuse
Disorders,” Federal Register vol. 59, no. 134, p. 36015, July 14, 1994.
92 Wesley J. Kasprow, Robert A. Rosenheck, Diane DiLello, Leslie Cavallaro, and Nicole
Harelik, Healthcare for Homeless Veterans Programs: Twentieth Annual Report, U.S.
Department of Veterans Affairs Northeast Program Evaluation Center, March 31, 2007, pp.
93 42 U.S.C. §1437f(o)(19).
94 Testimony of Alphonso Jackson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, House
Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Transportation and Housing and Urbanthnd
Development, FY2009 Appropriations, 110 Cong., 2 sess., February 13, 2008.
95 See Budget of the United States Government FY2009 — Appendix, Department of
Housing and Urban Development, p. 541, available at [http://www.whitehouse.gov/omb/
96 Robert Rosenheck, Wesley Kasprow, Linda Frisman, and Wen Liu-Mares, “Cost-
effectiveness of Supported Housing for Homeless Persons with Mental Illness,” Archives
of General Psychiatry 60 (September 2003): 940 (hereafter “Cost-effectiveness of
Supported Housing for Homeless Persons with Mental Illness”). An-Lin Cheng, Haiqun
Lin, Wesley Kasprow, and Robert Rosenheck, “Impact of Supported Housing on Clinical
Outcomes,” Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 195, no. 1 (January 2007): 83 (hereafter
“Impact of Supported Housing on Clinical Outcomes”).
97 “Cost-effectiveness of Supported Housing for Homeless Persons with Mental Illness,” p.
intoxication, and fewer days of drug use.98 HUD-VASH veterans were also found
to have spent fewer days in institutions.99
Loan Guarantee for Multifamily Transitional Housing Program. The
Veterans Programs Enhancement Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-368) created a program in
which the VA guarantees loans to eligible organizations so that they may construct,
rehabilitate or acquire property to provide multifamily transitional housing for
homeless veterans.100 Eligible project sponsors may be any legal entity that has101
experience in providing multifamily housing. The law requires sponsors to provide
supportive services, ensure that residents seek to obtain and maintain employment,
enact guidelines to require sobriety as a condition of residency, and charge veterans
a reasonable fee.102 Veterans who are not homeless, and homeless individuals who
are not veterans, may be occupants of the transitional housing if all of the transitional
housing needs of homeless veterans in the project area have been met.103
Supportive services that project sponsors are to provide include outreach; food
and nutritional counseling; health care, mental health services, and substance abuse
counseling; child care; assistance in obtaining permanent housing; education, job
training, and employment assistance; assistance in obtaining various types of
benefits; and transportation.104 Not more than 15 loans with an aggregate total of up
to $100 million may be guaranteed under this program. The VA has committed loans
to two projects and released a notice of funding availability for additional105
applications. One project, sponsored by Catholic Charities of Chicago, opened in
January 2007 with 141 transitional units for homeless veterans.106 A second project107
in San Diego is also expected to provide 144 transitional housing units. According
to the VA, the agency has been slow to implement the program due to service
providers’ concerns that they may not be able to operate housing for such a needy
98 “Impact of Supported Housing on Clinical Outcomes,” p. 85.
100 38 U.S.C. §§2051-2054.
101 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Multifamily Transitional Housing Loan Guarantee
Program: Program Manual, April 6, 2007, p. 9, available at [http://www1.va.gov/home
102 38 U.S.C. §2052(b).
104 Multifamily Transitional Housing Loan Guarantee Program: Program Manual, p. 10.
105 The Notice of Funding Availability is available at Federal Register 71, no. 10, April 12,
106 See U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, “Multifamily Transitional Housing Loan
Guarantee Program: Program Overview,” Presentation by Claude B. Hutchinson, Jr., July
V i deo_Slides.ppt].
107 Statement of Pete Dougherty, Director, Homeless Veterans Programs, Senate Veterans
Affairs Committee, Looking At Our Homeless Veterans Programs: How Effective Arethnd
They?, 109 Cong., 2 sess., March 16, 2006.
population and still repay the guaranteed loans.108 The VA has stated that it plans to
review the program to determine whether it should be modified, discontinued, or
replaced by another program.109
Acquired Property Sales for Homeless Veterans. The Acquired
Property Sales for Homeless Veterans program is operated through the Veterans
Benefits Administration (VBA). The program was enacted as part of the Veterans
Home Loan Guarantee and Property Rehabilitation Act of 1987 (P.L. 100-198). The
current version of the program was authorized in P.L. 102-54 (a bill to amend Title
Through the program, the VA is able to dispose of properties that it has acquired
through foreclosures on its loans so that they can be used for the benefit of homeless
veterans. Specifically, the VA can sell, lease, lease with the option to buy, or donate,
properties to nonprofit organizations and state government agencies that will use the
property only as homeless shelters primarily for veterans and their families. The VA111
estimates that over 200 properties have been sold through the program.
The Department of Labor
The Department of Labor (DOL) contains an office specifically dedicated to the
employment needs of veterans, the office of Veterans’ Employment and Training
Service (VETS). In addition to its program for homeless veterans — the Homeless
Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP) — VETS funds employment training
programs for all veterans. These include the Veterans Workforce Investment
Program and the Transition Assistance Program.
Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program. Established in 1987 as part
of the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act (P.L. 100-77), the HVRP was
authorized through FY2011 as part of the Veterans Benefits, Health Care, and
Information Technology Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-461). The program has two goals.
The first is to assist veterans in achieving meaningful employment, and the second
is to assist in the development of a service delivery system to address the problems
facing homeless veterans. Eligible grantee organizations are state and local
Workforce Investment Boards, local public agencies, and both for- and non-profit
108 Testimony of Pete Dougherty, Director, Homeless Veterans Programs, Department of
Veterans Affairs, House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Military Constructionthst
and Veterans Affairs, FY2008 Appropriations, 110 Cong., 1 sess., March 8, 2007.
109 Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans Fifth Annual Report, p. 14.
110 The program was most recently authorized in the Veterans Health Care, Capital Asset,
and Business Improvement Act of 2003 (P.L. 108-170). The program is codified at 38
111 “VA Programs for Homeless Veterans.”
organizations.112 Grantees receive funding for one year, with the possibility for two
additional years of funding contingent on performance and fund availability.113
HVRP grantee organizations provide services that include outreach, assistance
in drafting a resume and preparing for interviews, job search assistance, subsidized
trial employment, job training, and follow-up assistance after placement. Recipients
of HVRP grants also provide supportive services not directly related to employment
such as transportation, provision of or assistance in finding housing, and referral for
mental health treatment or substance abuse counseling. HVRP grantees often employ
formerly homeless veterans to provide outreach to homeless veterans and to counsel
them as they search for employment and stability. In fact, from the inception of the
HVRP, it has been required that at least one employee of grantee organizations be a
veteran who has experienced homelessness.114
Program Data. In program year (PY) 2006, HVRP grantees served a total of
The percentage of participants placed in employment has grown nearly every year
since PY2000, when 52.8% of veterans participating in HVRP entered116
employment. In PY2004, the most recent year for which more extensive data are
available, of those who became employed, an estimated 64% were still employed117
after 90 days, and 58% after 180 days. The average wage for participants has
grown steadily from $8.73 per hour in PY2000 to $9.55 per hour in PY2004.
Stand Downs for Homeless Veterans. A battlefield stand down is the
process in which troops are removed from danger and taken to a safe area to rest, eat,
clean up, receive medical care, and generally recover from the stress and chaos of
battle. Stand Downs for Homeless Veterans are modeled on the battlefield stand
down and are local events, staged annually in many cities across the country, in
which local Veterans Service Organizations, businesses, government entities, and
other social service organizations come together for up to three days to provide
similar services for homeless veterans. Items and services provided at stand downs
include food, clothing, showers, haircuts, medical exams, dental care, immunizations,
and, in some locations where stand downs take place for more than one day, shelter.
Another important facet of stand downs, according to the National Coalition for
112 Veterans Employment and Training Service Program Year 2007 Solicitation for Grant
Applications, Federal Register vol. 72, no. 71, April 13, 2007, p. 18682.
113 Ibid., p. 18679.
114 “Procedures for Preapplication for Funds; Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance
Act, FY1988” Federal Register vol. 53, no. 70, April 12, 1988, p. 12089.
115 Presentation of Charles S. Ciccolella, Assistant Secretary for Veterans’ Employment and
Training, U.S. Department of Labor, to the VA Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans,
January 31, 2008.
116 U.S. Department of Labor, Office of the Assistance Secretary for Veterans’ Employment
and Training, FY2005 Annual Report to Congress, March 23, 2007, p. 9, available at
[http://www.dol.gov/vets/me dia/FY2005_Annual_Report_T o_Congress.pdf].
117 Ibid., p. 9.
Homeless Veterans, is the camaraderie that occurs when veterans spend time among
Although stand downs are largely supported through donations of funds, goods,
and volunteer time, the DOL VETS office allows HVRP grant recipient organizations
to use up to $8,000 of their grants to fund stand downs. The VETS program also
awards up to $8,000 to HVRP eligible organizations that have not received an HVRP
grant. According to the most recent data available, $364,460 was used to serve
Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program Demonstration Grants.
The Homeless Veterans Comprehensive Assistance Act of 2001 (P.L. 107-95)
instituted a demonstration program to provide job training and placement services to
veterans leaving prison.119 By 2005, the program awarded $1.45 million in initial
grants to seven recipients, and extended these seven grants through March 2006 with
funding of $1.6 million.120 The Department of Labor reported that these grant
recipients enrolled 2,191 veterans in the transition program in fiscal years 2004
through 2006 and that of these enrollees, 1,104, or 54%, entered employment.121 The
average wage for those veterans entering employment was $10.00 per hour.
Authorization for the incarcerated veterans transition program expired on
January 24, 2006 and no additional funding has been provided. However, service
providers encourage continued involvement in making arrangements for veterans
leaving correctional facilities.122 And in its report for 2007, the Advisory Committee123
on Homeless Veterans recommended that the program be continued. Legislation
that would remove the program’s demonstration status and authorize it has beenth
introduced in the 110 Congress. For more information about pending legislation,
see CRS Report RL30442, Homelessness: Targeted Federal Programs and Recent
Legislation, by Libby Perl et al.
118 Ibid., p. 12.
119 38 U.S.C. §2023.
120 DOL VETS FY2005 Annual Report to Congress, p. 13.
121 Presentation of Charles S. Ciccolella.
122 See National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, “FY2007 Public Policy Priorities,”
January 24, 2007, available at [http://www.nchv.org/content.cfm?id=24].
123 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans,
Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans Fifth Annual Report, 2007, p. 16 (hereafter
Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans Fifth Annual Report).
Permanent Supportive Housing
With the exception of Section 8 vouchers provided through the HUD-VASH
program, the federal programs for homeless veterans offer funding only for
transitional housing developments; they do not fund permanent supportive housing.
The permanent supportive housing model promotes stability by ensuring that
residents receive services tailored to their particular needs, including health care,
counseling, employment assistance, help with financial matters, and assistance with
other daily activities that might present challenges to a formerly homeless individual.
Although veterans are eligible for permanent supportive housing through HUD
programs for homeless persons, they are not prioritized above nonveteran homeless
individuals. Some members of Congress, service providers, and the VA Advisory
Committee on Homeless Veterans support the creation of permanent supportive
housing dedicated to veterans. According to local government and community
participants in the last five VA CHALENG surveys, permanent supportive housing
is the number one unmet need of homeless veterans.124
In a report released in August 2007, the Government Accountability Office
(GAO) found that low-income veteran renter households were less likely to receive
HUD rental assistance than other low-income households.125 GAO estimated that
11% of low-income veteran renter households received HUD rental assistance
compared to 19% of low-income nonveteran renter households.126 Limited resources
are available to house low-income families, and veterans must compete with other
needy groups including elderly residents, persons with disabilities, and families with
young children. Due to a lack of permanent housing options, when veterans
complete programs that have transitional housing components, there is not always a
place for them to go. Another concern is that, as Vietnam-era veterans age, there is
a reduced chance that they will be able to find employment and support themselves.
Permanent supportive housing would serve that population.127
As discussed previously, Congress appropriated $75 million for up to 10,000
additional Section 8 vouchers for homeless veterans in the FY2008 Consolidated
Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-161). The President’s FY2009 budget request also
proposed $75 million to fund additional vouchers. Legislation has been introduced
in the 110th Congress would provide funds for additional HUD-VASH vouchers, as
well as funds for permanent supportive housing for very low-income veterans and
124 The Fourteenth Annual CHALENG Report, p. 12.
125 Government Accountability Office, Information on Low-Income Veterans’ Housing
Needs Conditions and Participation in HUD’s Programs, GAO-07-1012, August 17, 2007,
p. 29, available at [http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d071012.pdf].
127 Testimony of Cheryl Beversdorf, Director, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans,
before the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Military Construction andthst
Veterans Affairs, FY2008 Appropriations, 110 Cong., 1 sess., March 8, 2007.
their families. For more information about proposed legislation, see CRS Report
RL30442, Homelessness: Targeted Federal Programs and Recent Legislation, by
Libby Perl et al.
Veterans of the Wars in Iraq and Afghanistan
As veterans return from Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and Operation Enduring
Freedom (OEF), just as veterans before them, they face risks that could lead to
homelessness. To date, approximately 400 OEF/OIF veterans have used VA services
for homeless veterans, and the VA has classified 1,500 as being at risk of
homelessness. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, in an informal survey
of service providers, estimated that 1,260 veterans of the Iraq War sought assistance
from Grant and Per Diem programs in 2006.128 Approximately 751,273 OEF/OIF
troops have been separated from active duty since 2002.129 If the experiences of the
Vietnam War are any indication, the risk of becoming homeless continues for many
years after service. After the Vietnam War, 76% of Vietnam era combat troops and
50% of non-combat troops who eventually became homeless reported that at least ten
years passed between the time they left military service and when they became
Among troops returning from Iraq, between 15% and 17% have screened
positive for depression, generalized anxiety, and PTSD.131 Veterans returning from
Iraq also appear to be seeking out mental health services at higher rates than veterans
returning from other conflicts.132 Research has also found that the length and number
of deployments of troops in Iraq result in greater risk of mental health problems.133
Access to VA health services could be a critical component of reintegration into the
community for some veterans, and there is concern that returning veterans might not
128 Conversation with Cheryl Beversdorf, Director, National Coalition for Homeless
Veterans, April 10, 2007 (hereafter “Conversation with Cheryl Beversdorf”).
129 Since October 2003, DOD’s Defense Manpower Data Center (DMDC) has periodically
(every 60 days) sent VA an updated personnel roster of troops who participated in OEF and
OIF, and who have separated from active duty and become eligible for VA benefits. The
roster was originally prepared based on pay records of individuals. However, in more recent
months it has been based on a combination of pay records and operational records provided
by each service branch. The current separation data are from FY2002 through May 2007.
130 See “Homeless Veterans,” p. 105.
131 Charles W. Hoge, Carl A. Castro, Stephen C. Messer, and Dennis McGurk, “Combat
Duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, Mental Health Problems, and Barriers to Care,” New England
Journal of Medicine 351, no. 1 (July 1, 2004): Table 3.
132 Charles W. Hoge, Jennifer L. Auchterlonie, and Charles S. Milliken, “Mental Health
Problems, Use of Mental Health Services, and Attrition from Military Service After
Returning from Deployment to Iraq or Afghanistan,” JAMA 295, no. 9 (March 1, 2006):
133 Office of the Surgeon Multi-National Force-Iraq and Office of the Surgeon General
United States Army Command, Mental Health Advisory Team V, February 14, 2008, pp. 42-
MHAT V -OIF-4-FEB-2008Report.pdf].
be aware of available VA health programs and services.134 The VA has multiple
means of reaching out to injured veterans and veterans currently receiving treatment
through the Department of Defense (DOD) to ensure that they know about VA health
services and to help them make the transition from DOD to VA services. (For more
information about these efforts see CRS Report RL33993, Veterans’ Health Care
Issues, by Sidath Viranga Panangala.) However, for some veterans, health issues,
particularly mental health issues, may arise later. A study of Iraq soldiers returning
from deployment found that a higher percentage of soldiers reported mental health
concerns six months after returning than immediately after returning.135 Legislation
has been introduced in the 110th Congress that would attempt to identify returning
members of the armed services who are at risk of homelessness. For more
information on this legislation and its status, see CRS Report RL30442,
Homelessness: Targeted Federal Programs and Recent Legislation, by Libby Perl
The number and percentage of women enlisted in the military have increased
since previous wars. In FY2005, approximately 14.4% of enlisted troops in the
active components of the military (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines) were
female, up from approximately 3.3% in FY1974 and 10.9% in FY1990.136 The
number of women deployed to war is also on the rise. To date, over 165,000 female
troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan,137 compared to 7,500 in the
Vietnam War, and 41,000 in the Gulf War.138 The number of women veterans can
be expected to grow commensurately. According to the VA, there were
approximately 1.2 million female veterans in 1990 (4% of the veteran population)
and 1.6 million in 2000 (6%).139 The VA anticipates that there will be 1.8 million
134 See, for example, Amy Fairweather, Risk and Protective Factors for Homelessness
Among OIF/OEF Veterans, Swords to Plowshares’ Iraq Veteran Project, December 7, 2006,
135 Charles S. Milliken, Jennifer L. Auchterlonie, and Charles W. Hoge , “Longitudinal
Assessment of Mental Health Problems Among Active and Reserve Component Soldiers
Returning from the Iraq War,” JAMA 298, no. 18 (November 14, 2007): 2141, 2144.
136 U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, Personnel and
Readiness, Population Representation in the Military Services, FY2005, Appendix D, Table
D-13, available at [http://www.defenselink.mil/prhome/poprep2005/contents/contents.html].
137 The Joint Economic Committee, Helping Military Moms Balance Family and Longer
Deployment, May 11, 2007, p. 2, available at [http://www.jec.senate.gov/Documents/
138 U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
139 Robert A. Klein, Women Veterans: Past, Present, and Future, U.S. Department of
Veterans Affairs, Office of the Actuary, updated September 2007, pp. 8-9, available at
[http://www1.va.gov/ vetdata/docs/Womenvet erans_past_present_future_9-30-07a.pdf].
female veterans in 2010 (8% of the veteran population) and 1.9 million (10%) in
Women veterans face challenges that could contribute to their risks of
homelessness. Experts have found that female veterans report incidents of sexual
assault that exceed rates reported in the general population.141 The percentage of
female veterans seeking medical care through the VA who have reported that they
have experienced sexual assault ranges between 23% and 29%.142 Female active duty
soldiers have been found to suffer from PTSD at higher rates than male soldiers.143
Experience with sexual assault has been linked to PTSD, depression, alcohol and
drug abuse, disrupted social networks, and employment difficulties.144 These factors
can increase the difficulty with which women veterans readjust to civilian life, and
could be risk factors for homelessness (see earlier discussion in this report).
Women veterans are estimated to make up a relatively small proportion of the
homeless veteran population. Among veterans who use VA’s services for homeless
veterans, women are estimated to make up just under 4% of the total.145 As a result,
programs serving homeless veterans may not have adequate facilities for female
veterans at risk of homelessness, particularly transitional housing for women and
women with children. As of 2007, eight Grant and Per Diem programs provide
transitional housing for female veterans and their children.146 The VA Advisory
Committee on Homeless Veterans noted in its 2007 report that “the needs and
complexity of issues involving women veterans are increasing” and recommended
continued support through the Grant and Per Diem Special Needs grants.147
141 Jessica Wolfe et al., “Changing Demographic Characteristics of Women Veterans:
Results from a National Sample,” Military Medicine 165, no. 10 (October 2000): 800.
142 Anne G. Sandler, Brenda M. Booth, Michelle A. Mengeling, and Bradley N. Doebbeling,
“Life Span and Repeated Violence Against Women During Military Service: Effects on
Health Status and Outpatient Utilization,” Journal of Women’s Health 13, no. 7 (2004): 800.
143 Laurel L. Hourani and Huixing Yuan, “The Mental Health Status of Women in the Navy
and Marine Corps: Preliminary Findings from the Perceptions of Wellness and Readiness
Assessment,” Military Medicine 164, no. 3 (March 1999): 176.
144 Maureen Murdoch et al., “Women and War: What Physicians Should Know,” Journal
of General Internal Medicine 21, no. s3 (March 2006): S7.
145 Healthcare for Homeless Veterans 20th Annual Report, p. 26.
146 Conversation with Cheryl Beversdorf.
147 Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans Fifth Annual Report, p. 13.