Every year, the US promises young men and women that the country will take care of them if they join our all-volunteer military. That promise extends past their service in uniform and includes educational benefits, quality healthcare, and resources to help build a successful life. But unfortunately, it’s an empty promise to the more than 37,000 homeless veterans in the country.
Housing insecurity and homelessness among veterans are not new. From the Revolutionary War to America’s Engagement in Afghanistan, veterans have been temporarily displaced, faced housing insecurity, or become homeless. Yet, despite the compassionate and committed efforts of nonprofit organizations and the government, there are thousands of homeless veterans in the US.
The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the US homeless crisis, leaving millions reeling from massive employment layoffs and financial strains and plunging them into homelessness and housing insecurity. Even before the pandemic, the number of veterans experiencing homelessness was rising. Veteran unemployment, which had been at a 20-year low of slightly more than three percent in December 2019, soared over eight percent to a high of nearly twelve percent in April 2020.
Homeless Veteran Factors
In addition to the same factors contributing to all homelessness—extreme shortages of affordable housing, livable income, and access to healthcare—many displaced and at-risk veterans face other circumstances. For example, post-deployment readjustment can take a toll on returning veterans. In addition, many live with the lingering effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or traumatic brain injuries, making employment challenging or even impossible.
Veteran Homelessness in California and Santa Clara County
In 2020, California accounted for nearly one-third of all veterans experiencing homelessness in America, with 11,401. Together, California, Florida, Texas, and Washington—four states with the highest total number of veterans among their residents— accounted for about 70 percent of all homeless veterans in America.
The convergence of technology, talent, and capital in Silicon Valley has made it the epicenter of innovation for nearly two decades. The creation of giant technology companies caused an explosion in population, affecting the housing market.
The high cost of living in Santa Clara County presents several challenges for lower-income, working-class families. The average home price of more than $800,000 makes owning a home out of reach for most average wage-earners. For those already living within limited means, all it takes is one unexpected event—a costly medical bill, a death in the family, or incapacitating injury—to be on the brink of homelessness.
The housing challenge in Santa Clara County is further complicated for veterans living with the consequences of PTSD or a traumatic brain injury, who are often unable to find adequate employment.
Taking Steps to End Homelessness for Veterans
Fortunately, several initiatives and programs are underway to keep veterans from becoming homeless. For example, several pieces of draft legislation have been introduced at the federal level to reduce the number of unhoused veterans.
One of the legislative efforts focuses on the Department of Labor’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program, the only federal grant to focus exclusively on competitive employment for homeless veterans. The bill would extend the program past its 2022 expiration date through 2025.
In addition, the Department of Veterans Affairs is participating in the 2022 Point-in-Time Count. The count estimates the number of veterans living in America without safe, stable housing and is part of its continued work toward ending Veteran homelessness.
There are kind and compassionate organizations and people who work diligently to find shelter for homeless veterans. Organizations like the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul of Santa Clara County provide services to help with rent, utility, and food assistance.
If You Need Assistance
If you are a veteran experiencing homelessness, are at risk of homelessness, or are experiencing food insecurity in Santa Clara County, California, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul of Santa Clara County can help.
The Countywide Shelter Hotline: (408) 278-6420 also provides resources to people currently experiencing homelessness. In addition, the Santa Clara County Homelessness Prevention System at (408) 926-8885 can help if your housing situation is unstable or you’re at risk of becoming homeless.
In addition, the following services for veterans are available:
68 N. Winchester Boulevard
Santa Clara, CA 95050
80 Great Oaks Boulevard
San Jose, CA 95119
Palo Alto Division
3801 Miranda Avenue
Palo Alto, CA 94304
P.O. Box 26517
San Jose, CA 95159
Help Us Give Hope to US Veterans
Together, we can ensure that the people who proudly served the US have shelter. It’s a daunting task, but we can do it with your support. Please consider donating to the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul of Santa Clara County so we can continue to help struggling veterans and their families with dignity, compassion, and love.