Every three years, Wilder Research conducts a one-day statewide study to better understand the prevalence of homelessness in Minnesota, as well as the circumstances of those experiencing homelessness. As part of the 2018 study, we analyzed a subset of the overall population: U.S. military Veterans experiencing homelessness.

Homelessness among military Veterans is down, yet specific and unique needs remain.

Targeted efforts to reduce homelessness among military Veterans appear to be paying off.

Over the last decade, Minnesota has intensified and coordinated efforts to end homelessness among Veterans through coordinated efforts like the Homeless Veteran Registry.

Since 2000, the percentage of people experiencing homelessness, who are also military Veterans, has decreased steadily (16% to 7%). This is particularly hopeful given that the overall homeless population has increased by 10% between 2015 and 2018.

Percentage of homeless people who are U.S. military Veterans, by year. This graph includes three trend lines, including men, women, and Veterans overall. The overall percentage of people experiencing homelessness who are Veterans decreased from 2015 to 2018 from 8% to 7%. The percentage of the homeless population who are Veteran men decreased from 14% to 12% during that same period; women who are Veterans in this population decreased during 2% to 1%.

 

Key findings for Veterans experiencing homelessness

Homeless Veterans are older and first experience homelessness later in life, compared to the homeless population overall.

  • In 2018, the average age of Veterans experiencing homelessness was 53, a full decade older than the overall population of adults experiencing homelessness (age 40).
  • The average age at which Veterans first experienced homelessness is 37 years, nearly a decade later than the average age of first homelessness for adults overall (28 years).

Veterans of color are disproportionately affected by homelessness.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the vast majority of Minnesota Veterans identify as white (94%); smaller proportions identify as African American (3%) or American Indian (1%). However, among Veterans experiencing homelessness, 26% identify as African American and 8% identify as American Indian, illustrating large racial disparities among Veterans experiencing homelessness. These disparities also exist within the homeless population as a whole. Racist and discriminatory economic and housing policies, along with generational poverty, continue to play a role in the overrepresentation of African American and American Indian people in the homeless population.

Reasons for Veteran homelessness, and continued barriers to stable housing, are similar to the overall homeless population.

  • Veterans experiencing homelessness cite eviction as the reason for losing their last housing (Veterans: 38%, all adults: 39%).
  • Barriers to finding stable housing are also similar, with the primary reason being a lack of affordable housing (Veterans: 46%, all adults: 56%), followed by credit problems (Veterans: 41%, all adults: 43%) and no local rental history (Veterans: 32%, all adults: 30%).

The majority of Veterans experiencing homelessness have experienced trauma.

More than two-thirds (69%) of Veterans interviewed for the Minnesota Homeless Study had experienced at least one adverse childhood experience, such as abuse, neglect, or out-of-home placement; this percentage was higher among women (93%) than men (67%).

Serious and co-occurring health issues are common among Veterans experiencing homelessness.

  • 93% of Veterans experiencing homelessness reported having at least one serious or chronic disability (mental health condition, substance abuse disorder, chronic medical condition, cognitive impairment, or other condition that limits work or activities of daily living).
  • 51% of Veterans reported having a service-related health injury.

Employment rates among Veterans are similar to the overall homeless population.

  • 29% of Veterans experiencing homelessness were employed; 17% overall were employed full time. These rates are similar to the overall population of adults experiencing homelessness (29% employed; 13% full time).
  • 34% of unemployed homeless Veterans were looking for work. Among those who were unemployed, 73% reported being unemployed for a year or more; 52% had been unemployed for more than four years.

Looking ahead

Overall, it is promising that there has been a steady decrease in the percentage of Veterans experiencing homelessness over the past two decades. However it is important to continue to address the specific and unique needs of this population. Targeted outreach and policies remain essential in helping Veterans experiencing homelessness access and keep safe and affordable housing.