The number of veterans experiencing homelessness sank more than 11% from the start of 2020 to early 2022, a dramatic drop after several years of limited progress in finding shelter for those individuals, federal officials said.
The annual national Point-in-Time count shows 33,136 veterans across the U.S. without reliable housing options, down from 37,252 at the same point two years earlier.
Officials said the progress shows not only the work that still needs to be done to help veterans, but also that targeted efforts to help veterans avoid homelessness can produce positive results.
“One veteran experiencing homelessness will always be one too many, but the [new data] shows that we are making real progress in the fight to end veteran homelessness,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement Thursday.
Officials from VA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness conduct the Point-in-Time count annually to gauge the American homeless population — including veterans — on a single night each year.
The 2022 count — held in January — was the first full exercise since 2020, because coronavirus pandemic restrictions scuttled efforts to hold the in-person surveying.
Since 2010 — when President Barack Obama announced a new focus on ending veterans homelessness — the number has dropped by more than 55% (from 76,329). However, from 2016 to 2020, improvement in the numbers was largely flat, falling only about 6% over the four-year span.
“All veterans deserve to have what they need to lead healthy, safe and successful lives. That starts with a place to call home,” HUD Secretary Marcia Fudge said in a statement.
“The data released today shows we are closer than ever in ensuring that every veteran in America has a home.”
HUD officials are expected to release information on homelessness nationwide before the end of the year. However, officials who are familiar with the data said that the rate of improvement among veterans outpaced that of the general population.
The number of veterans experiencing homelessness rose slightly even before the coronavirus pandemic
VA officials credited that with targeted assistance for veterans in financial distress.
Department officials have also publicly pledged to find permanent housing for 38,000 veterans this year. As of Nov. 1, almost 31,000 individuals had been helped through that effort.
Officials did not release any data on the geographic location of the remaining homeless veterans or information about their race, gender or other demographics. That detail is expected to be made public in coming days.
Officials from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans praised the news but said more needs to be done. The group is urging lawamkers to make permanent pandemic-era rules and funding for programs to assist homeless veterans homelessness.
“We’re pleased to see the return of double-digit decreases in veteran homelessness,” said David Higgins Jr., spokesman for NCHV. “This would not have been possible without our members, and other providers working tirelessly on the front lines throughout the pandemic to ensure veterans had housing.”
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.