The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs says veterans make up one-third of the nation's homeless population. The VA estimates that on any given night, 200,000 homeless vets are on the streets and in shelters. As many as 400,000 veterans deal with homelessness at some point each year. The VA acknowledges that many more veterans are dangerously close to becoming homeless or are living in poor conditions.
The National Coalition on Homeless Veterans says the number of homeless veterans could be even higher than the VA estimates. Using figures from a 1996 survey from the Urban Institute, the NCHV says the number of homeless vets in the U.S. is anywhere between 529,000 and 840,000.
In 2003, the Wilder Research Center in St. Paul, Minn. surveyed Minnesota's homeless population on one night, October 23rd.
The survey found that of the 5,600 to 15,500 adults homeless on that night, 15 percent were veterans. Because 13 percent of Minnesota's general population is made up of veterans, they're not over-represented in the homeless population.
The VA has also broken down the characteristics of the country's homeless veterans.
Nearly half of the vets served in Vietnam. Forty-five percent of vets on the street suffer from a mental illness, while 75% percent deal with addiction to alcohol or drugs. The VA says about 56 percent of vets without a place to live are Hispanic or African American.
The VA also estimates that it's only able to reach out to about 25 percent of homeless vets and offer them service related benefits.