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Homeless Veterans in Minnesota: Eight Key Facts
Greg Owen, co-director of the triennial statewide homelessness study.

Wilder Research just completed a new report from the statewide survey conducted by Wilder Research in October 2012, which provides a point-in-time snapshot of homeless military veterans in Minnesota. Below are eight key findings I want to share:

1. Homelessness among veterans in Minnesota has decreased since 2009
Targeted efforts to reduce homelessness among military veterans appear to be paying off. In 2012, 580 homeless veterans were counted on the night of the survey, down from 669 in 2009. Our survey counted 542 male veterans, a 10 percent decline from the 605 counted in 2009. Among female veterans the decline is even more dramatic: our survey counted 38 female veterans compared to 64 female veterans three years earlier, a drop of 41 percent. Minnesota’s trend is similar to the national trend reported by the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, Ending Homelessness among Veterans, that found the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in the United States has decreased by 18 percent since 2010 (from 76,329 to 62,619).

2. Most homeless veterans are older and home-grown
While nearly a quarter of homeless adults age 55 and older have served in the military only 7 percent of those 54 or younger have done so. More than half of male homeless veterans in Minnesota are over age 50 compared with about one-quarter of Minnesota’s overall male homeless population. On average, male veterans are about 10 years older than the general population of homeless men. Seventy percent of all homeless veterans have lived in Minnesota five years or longer and over half have lived in Minnesota more than 20 years.

3. Homeless veterans are disproportionately people of color
About 37 percent of Minnesota’s homeless veterans are persons of color compared with less than 11 percent of the state’s overall adult population age 18 and older. Particularly over-represented are African Americans in the Twin Cities 7-county area (33%), and both African Americans (11%) and American Indians (10%) in greater Minnesota.

4. One-quarter of homeless veterans reported serving in a combat zone
Ten percent served in a combat zone in Vietnam, 4 percent in the first Gulf War, and 8 percent in the current Iraq War or Afghanistan. Nearly half of homeless veterans reported service-related health problems, primarily mental health problems (44%) and hearing/ear problems (33%). Based on a series of standard health interview questions, 6 percent of veterans reported that they have been diagnosed with a service-related head injury, although a much higher percentage – one third of all veterans – screened positive for a likely brain injury.

5. For homeless vets, better education doesn’t translate to employment; health barriers play a role in high unemployment rates
Almost all homeless veterans have completed high school compared with just three-quarters of the general homeless population. The percentage who attended college was also higher for homeless veterans than for the general homeless population (50% vs. 34%). However, similar to the overall homeless population, only 9 percent of homeless veterans were employed full time. More concerning, 53 percent of homeless veterans have been unemployed for over a year, compared with 46 percent of the overall homeless population. It is important to note that over half of homeless veterans reported that a physical, mental, or other health condition limited the amount or type of work they could do, and nearly one-third reported problems with memory, concentration, or decision-making.

6. Homeless vets have high rates of health coverage and access to care, but medical needs are not always met
More than 4 out of 5 homeless veterans have some type of medical coverage and 78 percent report that they have a regular place to go for medical care. Nonetheless, among the veterans we surveyed, 49 percent say they need to see a dentist, 43 percent need to see a doctor for physical health problems, and 36 percent need to see a professional for mental health problems. Overall, 26 percent report problems getting the medical care that they need, one out of six was not taking prescribed medications, and 42 percent had sought care in an emergency room within the past six months.

7. Use of veterans benefits is up
In the year prior to the survey, 45 percent of homeless veterans took advantage of benefits provided them. This compares to 42 percent in 2009 and 33 percent in 2006. The benefits most frequently used were Veterans Administration medical services (34%) and service-related compensation (19%). In addition, about one-third (34%) of homeless military veterans reported that during the past 12 months they had contact with a County Veterans Service Officer and over one-quarter had attended a Veterans Stand Down event.

8. Veterans experience high levels of chronic homelessness
Six out of 10 homeless veterans have been without stable housing for a year or longer. One out of 4 has been homeless at least three years, five percentage points higher than the overall homeless population. The proportion of homeless veterans that fit Minnesota’s definition of long-term homeless was 63 percent; the proportion of homeless veterans that fit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s definition of chronic homeless was 46 percent.

Greg Owen is the co-director for the triennial statewide homelessness study. Wilder Research has been conducting the study since 1991 to better understand the prevalence, causes, circumstances and effects of homelessness, and to promote efforts toward permanent, affordable housing for all Minnesotans.

 

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Amherst H. Wilder Foundation, 451 Lexington Parkway North, Saint Paul, Minnesota 55104 Phone: 651-280-2000
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