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Veteran Homelessness: A Guide for Veterans Who Are Homeless or At-Risk for Becoming Homeless.Image - Military

Being homeless, or at risk for homelessness, is one of the most difficult things a person can face. Lacking the security of knowing where you’ll sleep at night, having no place to keep your belongings, and not having the ability to care for yourself and possibly your family can lead to stress, anger, a sense of shame, depression and physical discomfort. It can be hard to find employment, live a satisfying life, or do the things you want to do when you are homeless.

There are many circumstances that can lead to homelessness. Some Veterans become homeless due to a combination of housing shortages and high unemployment. Other Veterans may be dealing with painful memories or health issues and have little access to health care or support from family and friends. This may lead them to feel as though they have nowhere else to go but the streets. In some cases, what seemed like a temporary lack of a place to stay becomes permanent. In other cases, Veterans who are homeless move from shelter to shelter because they don’t know where else to go.

What should I know about being homeless?

You, or a Veteran you know, may have difficulty coming to terms with the thought, “I am homeless,” as many people do. You may become angry or hopeless and simply give up trying to find a home or stop taking care of yourself. Such despair can also lead to harmful behavior—like alcohol or substance related problems—as a means to try to cope with the feelings you have about the situation.

“I had been successful and then it felt like I lost all my energy. I just couldn’t keep my job anymore. The bills mounted up, I couldn’t keep up with the rent, and I got kicked out of my apartment.”
Some Veterans who are homeless may face additional difficulties, such as:
  • Feeling down on themselves and hopeless
  • Being hungry or not eating healthy foods
  • Getting sick more often
  • Having physical ailments
  • Being out in extreme heat and cold
  • Drinking alcohol or taking substances to temporarily feel better

Some homeless Veterans may be dealing with health conditions that need attention, such as physical injury, problems with alcohol and drugs, depression, and posttraumatic stress. No matter what you or a Veteran you know may be going through while homeless, you may want to reach out for help right away.

What help is available for homeless Veterans?

All Veterans at risk for homelessness or attempting to exit homelessness—as well as their family and friends—can access a variety of resources and benefits, such as prevention services, housing support, job training, and healthcare. The National Call Center for Homeless Veterans provides a hotline and online chat for free and confidential assistance. Trained VA staff are on-call and available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to assist homeless Veterans and their families at 1-877-4AID VET (877-424-3838). http://www.va.gov/homeless/nationalcallcenter.asp.

Veterans and their family or friends can also contact the VA Homeless Coordinator at their nearest VA Medical Center for information or assistance with homeless issues.

Homelessness is complicated and difficult to overcome, but there are things you can do right now:

  • Make a list of your most immediate needs
  • ontact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans for support and resources
  • Find a place where you can receive mail, like a shelter, place of worship, or VA regional office or clinic
  • Make sure you have copies of personal records like your birth certificate, Social Security Card, photo ID, and DD 214. The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans has information on replacing personal records.
  • Eat healthy foods when possible
  • Avoid “easy outs” like alcohol and drugs
  • Take the next step – Make the connection.

    Every day, Veterans and their families and friends connect with resources, services, and support to address the issues impacting their lives. Homelessness interferes with health, relationships, and daily activities. There could also be underlying issues that are contributing to homelessness. Reach out for support and consider connecting with:

    • The National Call Center for Homeless Veterans
    • Your local VA Medical Center or Vet Center: VA specializes in the care and treatment of Veterans and has specific resources for homeless Veterans
    • Your family doctor: Ask if your doctor has experience treating Veterans or can refer you to someone who does
    • A mental health professional, such as a counselor or therapist
    • A spiritual or religious advisor

    Explore these resources for helping Veterans cope with homelessness:

    Learn more about the possible associations between homelessness and other concerns such as problems with alcohol or substance related problems, relationship problems, mental health related issues, including stress and anxiety, posttraumatic stress, and depression.

    National Call Center for Homeless Veterans

    The National Call Center for Homeless Veterans ensures that homeless Veterans or Veterans at-risk for homelessness have free, confidential, 24/7 access to trained counselors. Veterans and their families can connect with a trained VA staff member at 1-877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838). Website: http://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/NationalCallCenter.asp

    Department of Veterans Affairs – Homeless Programs

    This website provides information on VA’s programs and services for homeless Veterans. Website: http://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/index.asp

    National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

    NCHV is recognized as the nation’s leading authority on homeless Veterans’ issues. The NCHV website includes links to resources, employment assistance, and guides for homeless Veterans. NCHV is the resource and technical assistance center for a national network of community-based service providers and local, state and federal agencies that provide emergency and supportive housing, food, health services, job training and placement assistance, legal aid and case management support for hundreds of thousands of homeless veterans each year. Website: http://www.nchv.org/

    Vet Center

    Vet Centers can help you work through your issues with homelessness. If you are a combat Veteran or experienced any sexual trauma during your military service, bring your DD214 to your local Vet Center and speak with a counselor or therapist—many of whom are Veterans themselves—for free, without an appointment, and regardless of your enrollment status with VA. Website: http://www2.va.gov/directory/guide/vetcenter_flsh.asp

    National Center for PTSD

    This website provides information, resources, and practical advice for Veterans dealing with stress and trauma. Website: http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/PTSD-overview/basics/index.asp

    VA Medical Center Facility Locator

    Homelessness can be associated with health conditions that need attention. This link will allow you to search for VA programs located near you. If you are eligible to receive care through the Veterans Health Administration, you can enroll in one of VA’s mental health treatment programs. Website: http://www2.va.gov/directory/guide/home.asp?isflash=1

    Much of this information is based on this document.

    Here you will find a comprehensive and very useful step-by-step guide for dealing with issues related to veteran homelessness

    Background and statistics on veteran homelessness

    The connection between homelessness and trauma among female veterans

    Web Links

    veterans crisis line The Veterans Crisis Line connects Veterans in crisis and their families and friends with qualified, caring Department of Veterans Affairs responders through a confidential toll-free hotline, online chat, or text. Veterans and their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online, or send a text message to 838255 to receive confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Support for deaf and hard of hearing individuals is available.

    Programs and resources to help homeless veterans: The US Department of Veterans Affairs has many programs and resources to help homeless veterans in the areas of healthcare, housing assistance, mental health and employment/job training

    Endveteranhomelessness.org: The National Center on Homelessness among Veterans (NCHAV) works to promote recovery-oriented care for veterans who are homeless or at-risk for homelessness by developing and disseminating evidence-based policies, programs, and best practices.

    NAMI Veterans Resource Center: National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has many resources for homeless veterans.

    Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program: Homeless veteran employment assistance programs by The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor-Veterans' Employment and Training Service (DOL-VETS).

    Give An Hour: A non-profit and volunteer based organization that provides mental health services to veterans.

    America's Heroes at Work: Welcome to America's Heroes at Work - a U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) project that addresses the employment challenges of returning service members living with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and/or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

    U.S. Vets Over 200,000 veterans will sleep on the streets of our nation tonight. Our VISION is that one day there will no longer be homeless veterans in America...U.S. VETS provides housing, counseling, job assistance, and HOPE to thousands of homeless veterans each year. Our programs foster the skills necessary for every veteran to return to the community and remain self-sufficient.

    This is a link provided by the US army for soldiers that help with some information on stress, suicide facts, and some veteran benefits that are available.

    Welcome Back Veterans is resource to help veterans returning from deployment.

    Local organizations, resources and services

    Veterans Heart Georgia: This grass roots organization utilizes innovative approaches to helping veterans of all wars with the entire spectrum of the effects of war and military service. The organization is made up of veterans, mental health professionals and citizens.

    CareForTheTroops Inc. is a 501c3 Non-Profit formed to develop a network of civilian faith communities, civic organizations, and networks of therapists all trained and able to work with the military members, veterans, and their families as they adjust to the changes experienced during and after returning from deployments and combat.

    Veterans Empowerment Organization of Georgia: provides assistance to veterans who are neglected, sick, hungry and homeless in the state of Georgia.

    Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America: IAVA’s mission is to improve the lives of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans and their families.

    This is the information for Georgia’s largest provider of VA services and the web site address:

    • Atlanta VA Medical Center
    • 1670 Clairmont Road
    • Decatur, GA 30033
    • Phone: (404) 321-6111 hrs. 8:00a.m-4:30p.m.
    • Website www1.va.gov/Atlanta
    • 24-hour VA suicide hot line : 1-800-273-TALK

    Homeless Assistance Resources in Georgia: A list of all resources found for the state of Georgia – from the National Resources Directory (NRD), which connects wounded warriors, service members, veterans, their families and care givers with those who support them.

    ACSS Veterans Employment Assistance Program: Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency’s (ACSS) Employment Assistance Program supports homeless veterans in their efforts to re-enter the workforce by providing outreach, assessment, skills building, individual case planning, job readiness training, job placement assistance, referrals to housing and other supportive services.