Efforts to Address Veteran Homelessness Show Promise, Yet Significant Hurdles Persist

by Lucas Garcia
Veteran Homelessness

On an active street in Atlanta, Harold Tilson Jr., a 68-year-old veteran of the Vietnam War era, has discovered what he describes as a perfect fit.

Earlier in the year, Tilson faced homelessness. However, for several months now, he has been residing in a transitional home provided by the Veterans Empowerment Organization (VEO), a nonprofit that offers both emergency and long-term housing solutions for numerous veterans who previously experienced homelessness.

Tilson expresses immense gratitude for the organization, saying, “For anyone homeless seeking assistance, there’s no better option. They virtually handle everything.”

This is a reflection of a broader, longstanding initiative by various government entities and nonprofits across the United States aimed at reducing veteran homelessness. Since January 2020, there’s been an 11% decrease in the number of homeless veterans, and a 55% reduction over the last 13 years, according to official statistics. This is a stark contrast to the trends observed in the overall homeless population.

The strides made are partly attributed to the Obama administration’s emphasis on prioritizing veteran housing and the recent $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief fund, which enhanced the Department of Veteran Affairs’ homelessness programs and increased rental assistance. Successful collaborations between government agencies, nonprofits, and corporate foundations have also been pivotal.

Jill Albanese, the Director of Clinical Operations at the Veterans Health Administration’s Homeless Programs Office, remarks on the collaborative nature of these efforts, noting the critical role played by community expertise on homelessness.

Yet, the challenge remains considerable. Over 33,000 veterans are still homeless, based on the 2022 Point-in-Time count conducted by various federal agencies. Kathryn Monet, CEO of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, emphasizes that affordable housing is crucial, a challenge that many communities continue to grapple with.

VEO not only provides housing but also offers educational programs on financial literacy, securing VA benefits, and pathways to employment and housing independence. They also have communal spaces for reading and exercising.

Tony Kimbrough, a former military intelligence officer and CEO of VEO, underscores the reciprocal nature of the program: Veterans are expected to actively participate in their rehabilitation.

Tilson’s journey to VEO was marked by hardship. After losing his rented home, he relied on the support of his church community for basic needs before being directed to VEO. Now in emergency housing, he is focused on improving his financial situation and addressing health issues with the support of a VA case manager.

VEO, which started in 2008 with a single house, has expanded significantly, thanks in part to over $2.3 million in donations from The Home Depot Foundation. This foundation has been instrumental in aiding approximately 50,000 homeless veterans nationwide and has pledged substantial future funding.

Jennifer A. Taylor, a professor and military spouse at James Madison University, highlights the multifaceted role of corporate foundations like Home Depot in addressing veterans’ housing needs.

Despite these positive developments, the reality of tens of thousands of homeless veterans, including a significant number in Los Angeles, remains a pressing issue. Navy veteran Malcolm Harvey III’s transformation from homelessness to being a homeowner and program director at a Long Beach nonprofit exemplifies the potential for change.

Harvey emphasizes the importance of not becoming desensitized to the plight of homeless veterans, reminding us of the nation’s obligation to take action.

Report by Michael Casey, Big Big News Writer in Boston.

Veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness can seek assistance by contacting the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-424-3838.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Veteran Homelessness

What is the Veterans Empowerment Organization (VEO)?

The Veterans Empowerment Organization (VEO) is a nonprofit that provides emergency and permanent housing for previously homeless military veterans. It offers comprehensive support including transitional housing, educational programs on financial literacy, pathways to employment, and assistance in securing VA benefits.

How has veteran homelessness been addressed in recent years?

Since January 2020, there has been an 11% decrease in the number of homeless veterans, and a 55% reduction over the past 13 years. This progress is attributed to government initiatives, the Obama administration’s focus on veteran housing, the COVID-19 relief package boosting homeless programs, and collaborations between government, nonprofits, and corporate foundations.

What challenges remain in tackling veteran homelessness?

Despite the progress, over 33,000 veterans remain homeless. Key challenges include the need for affordable housing and the ongoing nature of homelessness, where as some veterans find housing, others become homeless. The issue requires continued collaborative efforts and resources.

What role has The Home Depot Foundation played in assisting homeless veterans?

The Home Depot Foundation has been instrumental in assisting homeless veterans, having donated $500 million to veteran causes since 2011 and pledging an additional $250 million by 2030. The foundation supports through funding, volunteer work, and partnerships with nonprofits like VEO, aiding in building and repairing homes for veterans.

How can veterans at risk of homelessness get help?

Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness can call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-424-3838 for assistance. This center provides a direct line to support services and resources available for veterans facing homelessness.

More about Veteran Homelessness

  • Veterans Empowerment Organization
  • National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
  • The Home Depot Foundation Veterans Programs
  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Homeless Programs
  • National Call Center for Homeless Veterans
  • Point-in-Time Count for Homelessness Data
  • Obama Administration Veteran Housing Initiatives
  • COVID-19 Relief Measures for Veterans
  • Veteran Homelessness Reduction Statistics

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Mike87 November 11, 2023 - 11:01 am

I think more companies should follow Home Depot’s lead, their contribution is huge, we need more of that kinda support for our vets

SandraK November 11, 2023 - 12:41 pm

Its amazing to see the reduction in veteran homelessness over the years, hats off to all those involved! but there’s still a long way to go.

JerryM November 11, 2023 - 1:37 pm

wow this is really an eye-opener, didn’t realize how many vets are still struggling with homelessness… great to see orgs like VEO doing such important work.

BethAnne November 11, 2023 - 9:20 pm

Reading about individuals like Harold Tilson Jr. really puts a face to the issue, so important to share these stories. Keep up the good work!


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