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Veterans' Voices on Homelessness

Tapping VA resources to overcome homelessness

Veterans who faced homelessness describe their experiences in restoring stability to their lives. The circumstances that left them with no place to live vary. Yet each took advantage of resources that help Veterans find counseling, support, work solutions, and housing. Reaching out for support was a sign of strength and improved their lives.

Being homeless, or at risk for homelessness, is one of the most difficult things anyone can face. Lacking the security of knowing where you’ll sleep at night, having no place to keep your belongings, and not being able 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.

Many circumstances 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 from the military 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 to go but the streets. In some cases, what seems 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?

Like many others, you or a Veteran you know may have difficulty coming to terms with the thought “I am homeless.” 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—such as alcohol or drug problems—as a means of coping with your feelings.

“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:

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, and their families and friends, can access a variety of resources and benefits, such as prevention services, housing support, job training, and health care. The National Call Center for Homeless Veterans provides a hotline and online chat for free, 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).

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

“I went to a Stand Down thinking I would just get some clothes and new glasses. I ended up talking to someone who helped me work out my legal problems.”

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

  • Make a list of your most immediate needs
  • Contact 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, such as your birth certificate, your Social Security card, a photo ID, and your DD214; 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 who served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard 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 alcohol or drug problems, stress and anxiety, relationship problems, 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).

Department of Veterans Affairs – Homeless Programs
This website provides information on VA’s programs and services for homeless Veterans.

National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
NCHV is recognized as the nation’s leading authority on issues involving homeless Veterans. The NCHV website includes links to resources, employment assistance, and guides for homeless Veterans.

Vet Center
Vet Centers can help you work through your issues with homelessness. If you are a combat Veteran or if you 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.

National Center for PTSD
This website provides information, resources, and practical advice for Veterans dealing with stress and trauma.

VA Medical Center Facility Locator
Homelessness can be associated with health-related 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.

Listen: Browse the video gallery to find stories most relevant to you. Locate: Find resources near you that can help get your life back on track.