November 9, 2021

Our Veterans are at Higher Risk for Homelessness: This is What We’re Doing About It

It’s a terrible truth that U.S. veterans are more at risk for homelessness than other demographics in America today: While veterans only make up six percent of the total U.S. population, they account for up to eight percent of the homeless population.

According to Military Times, the number of veterans without stable housing increased in 2020, and 21 out of every 10,000 veterans were homeless at the start of this year.

Many veterans have experienced trauma during their service and may return home suffering from PTSD, which may be worsened by accompanying physical injuries. Their symptoms can include flashbacks, sleep problems, feelings of low self-worth, aggression and self-destructive behavior.

Unfortunately, many veterans do not receive the support they need to overcome their trauma, whether because of lack of access to treatment or fear of the stigma around seeking out these services. As a result, their feelings of helplessness and despair can spiral, increasing symptoms of mental health disorders and contributing to substance use or dependence. Like anyone else, when a vet struggles with mental health, they can have trouble coping with the day-to-day activities, including maintaining regular attendance and performance at a job. Then, without consistent income, they may find themselves without a place to live.

If uninterrupted, our veterans can become stuck in a vicious downward spiral. At Communicare, we aim to increase awareness of our vets’ higher risks of homelessness and housing stability barriers—and how we can help through our SOAR and Project THRIVE programs.

Some vets struggling financially or with their physical and mental health may not be aware of the avenues of support open to them. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) developed the SSI/SSDI Outreach, Access, and Recovery (SOAR) model to address this critical need.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) are disability income benefits administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) that also provide Medicaid or Medicare health insurance to eligible children and adults. The application process for SSI/SSDI is complicated and challenging to navigate. Accessing these programs can be extremely challenging for people who are experiencing or at-risk of homelessness or returning to the community from institutions (jails, prisons or hospitals). For those with a serious mental illness, substance use issues or co-occurring disorders that impair cognition, the application process is even more difficult–yet accessing these benefits is often a critical first step in building resiliency and supporting recovery.

Project THRIVE is a resource coordination program for individuals and families in Oxford or Lafayette County who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. We work with veterans and others to streamline referrals to the support they need through a single point of entry.

We’re able to help by providing a variety of supportive services, including:

• working with local food pantries to provide food

• completing SNAP, Social Security and Medicaid applications

• helping to complete job applications

• assisting in applying for unemployment benefits and local assistance

• helping to locate affordable housing and complete housing applications

• and providing any household items needed.

Contact us at 662-234-7521 to learn more about our homelessness prevention and mental health services for veterans.

If you have an emergency, please call 911, go to your nearest emergency room or call 1-866-837-7521 to be connected to Communicare’s mobile crisis team, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year.