Guide to Housing Support and Resources for Unhoused Veterans

ByNathan Paulus
Edited byRae Osborn

Updated: November 22, 2023

ByNathan Paulus
Edited byRae Osborn

Updated: November 22, 2023

Advertising & Editorial Disclosure

According to the latest data, the issue of homelessness remains significant among U.S. veterans, with 33,129 veterans reported as unhoused in 2022. This number, however, marks an 11% reduction since January 2020. Being "unhoused" is defined by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development as living in emergency shelters, transitional housing or unsheltered conditions. For veterans who are unhoused, at risk of being so or seeking to avoid this situation, several housing programs and financial benefits are available to help.

Unhoused Veterans Statistics

 

Housing instability is a critical issue affecting veterans. Numerous government and nonprofit initiatives are actively working to provide more stable housing options for veterans.

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There has been a 55.3% decline in the number of unhoused veterans in the U.S. since 2010.

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For every 10,000 veterans in the U.S. in 2022, 20 were unhoused, a rate slightly higher than the general population (18 per 10,000).

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In 2022, 19,565 veterans were housed in sheltered environments like emergency shelters or transitional housing, while 13,564 were unsheltered.

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More unhoused veterans live in California than any other state, with 10,395 unhoused veterans in 2022.

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A 2022 survey with 37,252 respondents revealed that 58.4% of unhoused veterans were White, 30.9% were Black or African American, 5.1% were multiple races, 3.1% were Native American, 1.2% were Asian and 1.2% were Pacific Islander.


Housing Resources for Unhoused Veterans

If you need help with housing instability or risk becoming unsheltered, immediate assistance is available. Key resources include the 24/7 National Call Center for Homeless Veterans — dial 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838) to speak with trained staff — and the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program. Various nonprofits and community organizations also offer tailored housing benefits for veterans. Each program has unique benefits and requirements. Check their websites for detailed information.

Government Assistance Programs

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is committed to solving the issue of unhoused veterans. In partnership with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the VA provides housing vouchers for those needing stable residences. Various other programs offer housing assistance like rental and funding to help veterans transition into stable living conditions, including those described in the table below.

Program Name
Asssistance
Key Benefits
How to Apply

Housing Choice Voucher (HCV), rental assistance and clinical services.

  • Offers rental assistance for private housing to unhoused veterans.
  • Offers support services like health care, mental health treatment and substance use counseling through VA case managers.

Apply through local public housing authorities and VA medical centers (VAMCs) or community-based outreach clinics.

Housing stability support.

  • Provides quick housing solutions for veterans and their unhoused families.
  • Offers time-limited supportive services, including financial planning and educational aid, to maintain housing stability.

Contact private nonprofit organizations and consumer cooperatives awarded SSVF grants. You can go to the VA website to locate SSVF providers .

Transitional housing and support services.

  • Funds over 14,500 beds through 600 agencies for eligible veterans.
  • Offers a maximum 24-month stay to transition to permanent housing.
  • Provides employment, housing and additional social services.

Apply through state, local and tribal governments and nonprofits that the VA has granted.

Nonprofit and Community Housing Assistance

Various nonprofit organizations and community groups also offer key support to help veterans achieve housing stability. Below are some nonprofits providing services such as custom home building and rental deposit assistance for unhoused veterans.

Program Name
Assistance
Key Benefits
How to Apply

Advocacy and resource provision.

  • Offers emergency housing, food, health services and job training.
  • Provides a searchable database for state-specific services.

Call 1-877-424-3838 for 24/7 assistance or contact them through info@nchv.org.

Custom home building.

  • Builds custom homes for severely injured post-9/11 veterans.

Visit their website to request assistance and learn about eligibility.

Housing Assistance.

  • Helps house veterans and their families who qualify for VA/HUD-VASH vouchers by assisting with rental deposits and the first month's rent.

Contact them at (567) 698-7838 or visit the Veterans Matter website.

Community-based Services.

  • Provides one-stop access to permanent housing, health care and career development for veterans at risk of being unhoused.

Locate your local CRRC through their website.

Veteran-Specific Financial Assistance for Basic Needs

Unhoused veterans often need additional help with food, health care and transportation. Various governmental and non-governmental programs offer tailored support for these needs. Be sure to check each program's eligibility and benefits to maximize the available resources.

Emergency Assistance and Crisis Support

In urgent situations, veterans have access to immediate assistance. Emergency support generally includes assistance with emergency housing and rentals, essential food supplies, utility bills, medical facilities and clothing. The 211 helpline connects you to local community services, offering veteran-specific assistance like emergency housing, food and employment support. It's accessible in many areas nationwide and is free of charge. While not specifically designed for unhoused veterans, the services listed in the following table can provide vital support during emergencies.

Program Name
Assistance
Key Benefits
How to Apply

Crisis Support.

  • Provides free 24/7, confidential crisis support.

Dial 9-8-8 and press 1, or text 838255 for real-time assistance from trained personnel.

Financial assistance and transitional housing.

  • Provides immediate financial relief with overdue bills, home repairs, rent, food and housing support for veterans.

Apply online through their website or call 1-877-264-3968.

Immediate support and resources to unhoused veterans.

  • Offers food, shelter, clothing, health screenings and benefits counseling.

Check with local VA Medical Centers or visit the VA's Stand Down page.

Financial assistance for essential bills.

  • Aids veterans with temporary financial hardships related to medical or military issues.

You can apply online. You must be a Post 9/11 Veteran with a medical or military-related hardship.

Financial Supports.

  • Covers rent, utilities, groceries, clothing and transportation to medical facilities.

Apply online or call 888-289-0280.

Health Care and Mental Health Services

Access to health care is crucial for unhoused veterans. Multiple government programs offer health care and mental health support tailored for veterans facing housing instability. The following table includes a selection of these programs and the specific health services they offer.

Program Name
Assistance
Key Benefits
How to Apply

Outreach, exams, treatment, referrals and case management.

  • Provides essential tools and mental health support for Veterans to transition from unhoused.

Call 1-877-4AID-VET or visit their website.

Immediate assistance for unhoused or at-risk veterans.

  • Provides 24/7 toll-free hotline and online chat for various mental health issues.

Contact the nearest VA medical center or Vet Center or call 1-877-4AID-VET.

Medical services in a residential setting.

  • Offers 24/7 support, helping veterans live independent lives using modern medical techniques.
  • Offers 2,400 beds are available.

Contact the local VA medical center.

Integrated clinical care, social services and community coordination.

  • Offers comprehensive, individualized care including medical care, housing, substance use and mental health treatment.

Walk into HPACT clinics located on VA medical center campuses or community-based outpatient clinics.

Dental treatment.

  • Provides dental care through various programs like Domiciliary Residential Rehabilitation Treatment, VA Grant and Per Diem Program and more.

Contact the local VA medical center.

Food Assistance

Several initiatives provide nutritious meals for veterans, led by both government and nonprofit organizations. Understanding these programs can help you optimize your benefits and combat food insecurity. Below is a curated list detailing these initiatives and the specific meal services they provide to veterans.

Program Name
Assistance
Key Benefits
How to Apply

Food assistance through SNAP, WIC and food distribution programs.

  • Provides food assistance to around 1.1 million veterans annually.

Apply online or at a local office. Call 1-866-3HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479).

Community food pantries and gift card program.

  • Provides free food, goods and public education to veterans and their families.

Fill out their form on their website.

Online directory for local food assistance resources.

  • Locates local pantries, soup kitchens, food banks and subsidized grocery resources.

Search on their website for locations nearest you.

Transportation Benefits

Access to transportation is crucial, particularly for medical appointments. Specific government programs offer veterans transportation support, which is vital for those who live far from health care facilities and need regular medical care. The table below provides a list of these programs and the transportation assistance they offer to veterans.

Program Name
Assistance
Key Benefits
How to Apply

Transportation to medical appointments, assistance with benefit claims and advocacy.

  • Provides free transportation for medical appointments and helps with benefit claims.

Contact the local DAV office or the hospital service coordinator at the nearest VA medical center.

Transportation services to VA health care appointments.

  • Offers safe, reliable transportation to VA facilities.

Contact your local VA medical facility.

Reimbursement for travel expenses to medical appointments.

  • Reimburses eligible veterans and caregivers for mileage and other travel expenses.

Transportation in highly rural areas.

  • Grants for travel to VA or VA-authorized health care facilities in highly rural areas.

Confirm your county's eligibility and visit the program's website for more information.

Understanding Why Veterans Become Unhoused

As a veteran who may be facing a lack of shelter, you're dealing with complex, systemic issues that don't reflect your personal courage or worth. Transitioning from military to civilian life can bring economic hardships that lead to housing instability, exacerbated by a lack of affordable housing, gaps in services and the intricacies of aid programs. Inadequate social support and limited knowledge of available resources and benefits further challenge the pursuit of stable housing post-service. The following factors may contribute to homelessness among veterans:

1
Complex Transition from Military to Civilian Life

Transitioning from the structured military environment requires substantial adjustment. Veterans often lack the necessary training or support to navigate this crucial transition, which is vital for securing employment and housing.

2
Lack of Affordable Housing and Adequate Income

The severe shortage of affordable housing and the difficulty of earning a livable income pose significant obstacles. When combined with other issues, such as access to health care, these economic factors can create substantial barriers to stable housing for veterans.

3
Access to Support Services

Despite the existence of programs for veterans without housing, obstacles in resource accessibility can prevent them from obtaining the support and benefits they are entitled to. This includes access to secure housing, health care, substance abuse treatment, mental health counseling and job placement assistance.

4
Mental Health Difficulties and PTSD

Many veterans contend with the lingering effects of PTSD, suicidal thoughts and other mental health challenges. This is compounded by limited access to mental health care and unawareness of available health benefits. These conditions can make integration into civilian life, job maintenance, and housing stability challenging without proper care.

5
Non-Transferable Skills

Military training and occupations aren't always directly applicable in the civilian job market. Veterans' skills may require additional support or translation to be valued and utilized in post-service employment.

Employment Pathways for Unhoused Veterans

Securing employment while experiencing a lack of housing provides financial stability and a sense of purpose and direction. You can begin by leveraging training and employment services offered by the VA. Below are other tips you can consider to help you secure employment while being unhoused.

Steps for Social and Community Reintegration

Building a strong social support network can help you transition back to civilian life. Below are steps you can take to reintegrate socially and emotionally.

1
Join a Veteran Community Group

Engage with peers who share similar experiences through organizations like the American Legion or the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA). These platforms offer immediate social support and camaraderie tailored to various veteran experiences.

2
Seek a Veteran Mentor

Mentorship can provide personalized guidance and emotional support. Platforms like Veterati or local Vet Center Programs offer mentorship opportunities based on veteran experiences.

3
Participate in Therapy or Support Groups

Addressing mental health is crucial for successful reintegration. Organizations like Give an Hour offer veteran-specific mental health services, while community-based groups like Team Red, White and Blue offer therapeutic physical and social activities.

4
Engage in Local Community Activities

Participate in local events and volunteer opportunities to build a broader social network. Platforms like VolunteerMatch and organizations like The Mission Continues offer various community engagement opportunities.

Practical Financial Steps for Unhoused Veterans

Financial stability for unhoused veterans extends beyond merely securing a job—it includes making informed decisions with the income earned. The journey towards financial steadiness often begins with small, manageable steps, starting with a thorough assessment of your financial situation to identify eligible benefits and financial assistance.

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    Assess Finances and Identify Resources

    Start with a budget that includes your income, debts and essential expenses. Utilize immediate resources like shelters or meal programs to offset costs.

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    Open a No-Fee Bank Account

    Opt for a basic no-fee account to manage funds and avoid extra costs. If traditional banking isn't accessible, consider cash management methods like the envelope system.

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    Address Debts

    Create a debt repayment plan, focusing on high-interest and urgent debts first. Explore options for deferment or reduced payments for essential debts. Organizations like the National Foundation for Credit Counseling can offer guidance to help you get out of debt.

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    Utilize Government Assistance

    Investigate eligibility for financial aid like Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or food stamps. Explore websites like Benefits.gov, which can help you discover available benefits.

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    Seek Financial Education

    Consult with financial counselors and attend veteran-specific financial literacy workshops. Many cities offer free financial clinics that provide budgeting and debt management advice.

Additional Resources

We’ve compiled resources tailored to veterans are available, each with distinct objectives and benefits.

  • American Veterans (AMVETS): AMVETS is dedicated to supporting veterans and active military in procuring their earned entitlements. They also provide community services and promote Americanism.
  • National Veterans Legal Services Program: This program offers free legal representation to veterans and active duty personnel facing financial hurdles. They focus on complex cases requiring legal expertise.
  • National Alliance to End Homelessness: The alliance works to prevent and eradicate homelessness through research, education and advocacy. They provide data and research to inform policy and offer solutions.
  • Next Step Service Dogs: They provide trained service dogs to assist veterans with PTSD and other disabilities. The service dogs aid in enhancing the quality of life for veterans.
  • Soldiers' Angels: Soldiers' Angels provide aid and comfort to the men and women of the United States military and their families. They offer various programs aimed at providing support during and post-service.
  • The Veterans Consortium: Offering free legal counsel to veterans, their families and caregivers, The Veterans Consortium provides a crucial service. They help navigate legal challenges that may arise post-service.
  • U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD): HUD focuses on creating strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and affordable homes for all. They also provide resources to address homelessness and support community development.
  • Veterans Inc.: Veterans Inc. aids veterans and their families with housing, employment and training services. They aim to help veterans reintegrate into the community successfully.
  • Veterans Legal Institute: The Veterans Legal Institute provides free legal assistance to unhoused, at-risk, low-income and disabled veterans. They help remove legal barriers to housing, health care and education.
  • Veterans Moving Forward: Veterans Moving Forward provides service dogs and canine therapy to veterans facing physical and mental health challenges. They aim to provide veterans with a renewed sense of purpose.
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW): VFW provides support services, advocates for veterans' rights and offers numerous community service programs. They represent veterans’ interests, ensuring their voices are heard.
  • Work for Warriors (Guard and Reserve): Work for Warriors offers a free job placement program for National Guard members, reservists and spouses. They focus on reducing unemployment and underemployment.
  • Wounded Warrior Project: The Wounded Warrior Project offers a variety of programs and services to severely injured service members during their transition to civilian life. They aim to empower warriors to live life fully.

About Nathan Paulus


Nathan Paulus headshot

Nathan Paulus is the Head of Content Marketing at MoneyGeek, with nearly 10 years of experience researching and creating content related to personal finance and financial literacy.

Paulus has a bachelor's degree in English from the University of St. Thomas, Houston. He enjoys helping people from all walks of life build stronger financial foundations.


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