A report from a New Hampshire-based group dedicated to ending homelessness has found that while overall homelessness is decreasing, homelessness among veterans has acutely increased.
According to the New Hampshire Coalition to End Homelessness (NHCEH), this past year marked a slight decrease in the overall homeless population by around 3 percent. The group examined census data and economic factors from 2010 to 2014, concluding that the decrease began in 2011.
Veterans currently comprise approximately 11 percent of the total homeless population in New Hampshire, and unfortunately, they’ve been unable to take advantage of the downward trend. Instead, veteran homelessness in New Hampshire has exploded by 33 percent in 2014, and the number of chronically homeless people has shot up 44 percent. From 2012 to 2014, the rate of veteran homelessness has increased by 44 percent.
“We are still seeing increases in certain subpopulations of the homeless, including veterans and those who are chronically homeless, and we have far too many parents and children who enter the homeless services system each year,” the report noted.
One of the main contributing factors to veteran homelessness includes a 5 percent increase of the poverty rate, although an 18 percent uptick in permanent housing programs, and a 4 percent decrease in homelessness among students were cited as two of the reasons for the overall decline in homelessness.
“While significant federal investments have helped to house many veterans over the course of the past three years, adequately serving the flow of veterans returning from recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan remains a challenge for many communities,” the report stated.
Although the trend in New Hampshire for veterans is disappointing, the veteran homelessness rate across the U.S. has declined by an astonishing 33 percent since 2009. The deadline for ending veteran homelessness has been pushed back to late 2015. The original goal set by President Barack Obama and former VA Secretary Eric Shineski of early 2015 turned out to be a little too ambitious, but even still, it is unclear whether the new deadline will be reached, either.
Last Monday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs announced a partnership with the Department of Veterans Affairs to permanently house roughly 2,000 veterans by issuing vouchers to help them pay for rent, enabling veterans to live in privately-owned housing while only needing to contribute 30 percent of the total cost. Since 2008, 68,000 vouchers have been issued to 80,000 veterans. Most experts say that veteran homelessness will never truly be eliminated, but that a “functional zero” is possible.
Beginning in 2015, New Hampshire homeless services hopes to seize on the decrease by sending homeless applicants to a single center, which can then suggest the most appropriate service based on the individual’s needs.
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