Veteran's Administration Secretary Eric Shinseki vows to end homelessness among vets within five years, a very ambitious goal. However, if the statistical trends reveal anything, there is reason to hope. In 2010 it is estimated that there are 107,000 homeless veterans in the U. S., down 18% from 2009 and down from an estimated 195,000 in 2004.
Shinseki will spend $3.2 billion during 2010 to continue to move the data in the right direction. Of his pumped up budget, $2.7 billion will go to medical services. Only $500 million will go to housing efforts, a mistake in my view. Medical costs could actually be contained and driven down by the provision of permanent supportive housing, much like exercise and diet programs can have more impact on a person's health status than clinical medical approaches to chronic diseases.
Consider these facts about U. S. Veterans who live on the streets of our nation:
- 3% Homeless population who served in Iraq or Afghanistan
- 20% All homeless persons who served in military
- 33% Adult homeless men who served in military
- 550 Number of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan who have been treated in VA-connected residential programs
- 3,700 Number of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan in VA homeless-outreach programs
- 56,000 Number of veterans released from prison each year
- 92,000 Number of homeless veterans served in 2009 by VA specialized homeless programs