HOMELESS VETERANS FACTS
DEFINITIONS, DEMOGRAPHICS AND ESTIMATED NUMBERS
What is the definition of “homeless”?
The United States Code contains the official federal definition of homelessness, which is commonly used because it controls federal funding streams. In Title 42, Chapter 119, Subchapter 1, “homeless” is defined as follows:
§11302. General definition of homeless individual
(a) In general
For purposes of this chapter, the term “homeless” or “homeless individual or homeless person” includes––
1. an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and
2. an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is––
A. 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);
B. an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be
C. a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping
accommodation for human beings.”
Who is a veteran?
In general, most organizations use the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) eligibility criteria to determine which veterans can access services. Eligibility for VA benefits is based upon discharge from active military service under other than dishonorable conditions. Benefits vary according to factors connected with the type and length of military service. To see details of eligibility criteria for VA compensation and benefits, view the current benefits manual here.
DEMOGRAPHICS OF HOMELESS VETERANS
· 11% of the homeless adult population are veterans
· 20% of the male homeless population are veterans
· 68% reside in principal cities
· 32% reside in suburban/rural areas
· 51% of individual homeless veterans have disabilities
· 50% have a serious mental illness
· 70% have substance abuse problems
· 57% are white males, compared to 38% of non-veterans
· 50% are age 51 or older, compared to 19% non-veterans
In May 2007, the Bureau of Justice Statistics released a special report on incarcerated veterans. The following are highlights of the report, “Veterans in State and Federal Prison, 2004,” which assessed data based on personal interviews conducted in 2004:
Numbers and profiles:
There were an estimated 140,000 veterans held in state and federal prisons. State prisons held 127,500 of these veterans, and federal prisons held 12,500. Male veterans were half as likely as other men to be held in prison (630 prisoners per 100,000 veterans, compared to 1,390 prisoners per 100,000 non-veteran U.S. residents). This gap had been increasing since the 1980s.
Veterans in both state and federal prison were almost exclusively male (99 percent). The median age (45) of veterans in state prison was 12 years older than that of non-veterans (33). Non-veteran inmates (55%) were nearly four times more likely than veterans (14%) to be under the age of 35.
Veterans were much better educated than other prisoners. Nearly all veterans in state prison (91%) reported at least a high school diploma or GED, while an estimated 40% of non-veterans
The U.S. Army accounted for 46% of veterans living in the United States yet 56% of veterans in state prison.
In 2004, the percentage of state prisoners who reported prior military service in the U.S. Armed Forces (10%) was half of the level reported in 1986 (20%). Most state prison veterans (54%) reported service during a wartime era, while 20% saw combat duty. In federal prison two-thirds of veterans had served during wartime, and one quarter had seen combat. Six in ten incarcerated veterans received an honorable discharge.
Veteran status was unrelated to inmate reports of mental health problems. Combat service was not related to the prevalence of recent mental health problems. Just over half of both combat and non-combat veterans reported any history of mental health problems. Veterans were less likely than non-veteran prisoners to have used drugs. Forty-two percent of veterans used drugs in the month before their offense compared to 58% of non-veterans. No relationship between veteran status and alcohol dependence or abuse was found.
Convictions and sentencing:
Veterans had shorter criminal histories than non-veterans in state prison. Veterans reported longer average sentences than non-veterans, regardless of offense type. Over half of veterans (57%) were serving time for violent offenses, compared to 47% of non-veterans. Nearly one in four veterans in state prison were sex offenders, compared to one in 10 non-
veterans. Veterans were more likely than other violent offenders in state prison to have victimized females and minors. More than a third of veterans in state prison had maximum sentences of at least 20 years, life or death.