Updated November 6, 2018
Veterans and Homelessness
The federal government assists homeless veterans through a
number of targeted federal programs. This In Focus
describes the major federal programs that assist homeless
veterans, funding for select programs, and the number and
characteristics of veterans experiencing homelessness. For
more information, see CRS Report RL34024, Veterans and
Homelessness, by Libby Perl.
Federal Programs for Homeless
Programs to assist homeless veterans are funded through
three agencies: the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA),
Department of Labor (DOL), and Department of Housing
and Urban Development (HUD).
Healthcare for Homeless Veterans (HCHV): Through
HCHV, VA medical center staff conduct outreach to
homeless veterans; provide care and treatment for
medical, psychiatric, and substance use disorders; and
refer veterans for supportive services. The HCHV
program is authorized through FY2020 (P.L. 115-251).
Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans (DCHV):
DCHV (first funded through P.L. 100-71) provides
rehabilitative services for physically and mentally ill or
aged veterans who need assistance, but are not in need
of the level of care offered by hospitals and nursing
homes. Through DCHV, veterans receive medical,
psychiatric, and substance use treatment, and vocational
Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF):
SSVF funds grants for supportive services to assist very
low-income veterans and their families who are either
residing in permanent housing or transitioning from
homelessness. Eligible services include assistance with
rent, utility or moving costs, outreach, case
management, and help with obtaining VA and other
mainstream benefits. The program is authorized at $380
million through FY2019 by P.L. 115-251.
Homeless Veterans Reintegration Programs
(HVRP): HVRP grantees provide services to veterans
including outreach, assistance in interview preparation,
job search, job training, and follow-up assistance after
placement. The program is authorized at $50 million
through FY2020 (P.L. 115-251). A separate HVRP
targets women veterans and veterans with children and
is authorized through FY2020 at $1 million (P.L. 115251).
Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program: The
Incarcerated Veterans Transition program funds grantee
organizations to provide job training and placement
services to veterans who are leaving prison. It is
authorized through FY2020 (P.L. 115-251).
Figure 1. Funding for Select Programs
VA Obligations and DOL Budget Authority, FY2005-FY2017
Compensated Work Therapy/ Transitional
Residence Program (CWT/TR): CWT gives veterans
with disabilities work experience and skills so that they
may re-enter the workforce and maintain employment
on their own. The TR component to CWT provides
housing to CWT participants who have mental illnesses
or chronic substance use disorders and who are
homeless or at risk of homelessness. The TR component
of CWT is authorized through FY2020 (P.L. 115-251).
Grant and Per Diem Program (GPD): GPD
authorizes the VA to make grants to public entities or
private nonprofit organizations to provide services and
transitional housing to homeless veterans, with a focus
on achieving permanent housing. The program is
authorized at $258 million in FY2015 and subsequent
years (P.L. 114-228).
GPD for Homeless Veterans with Special Needs:
GPD for homeless veterans with special needs,
authorized at $5 million through FY2020 (P.L. 115251), targets GPD funds to specific groups of veterans,
including women, elderly veterans, terminally or
mentally ill veterans, and veterans with children.
Source: VA and DOL Budget Justifications.
HUD and VA Collaborative Program
HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUDVASH): Through HUD-VASH, homeless veterans receive
rental assistance in the form of Section 8 vouchers from
HUD and supportive services from the VA. Begun as a
three-year inter-agency collaboration in the 1990s,
Congress has funded new VASH vouchers in each year
from FY2008-FY2018. Appropriations for vouchers exceed
amounts authorized in law; funding for HUD-VASH was
last authorized in FY2011.
Veterans and Homelessness
HUD and VA together determine how vouchers are
allocated across the country. The majority of HUD-VASH
vouchers are tenant-based, meaning that veterans can use
them to rent available units on the private rental market
(subject to program rules). A portion of the vouchers have
been issued competitively as project-based vouchers and
are attached to specific units of housing. Funds to renew
vouchers after the first year are provided through the
general Section 8 account.
The FY2015 appropriations law (P.L. 113-235) provided
that funds be set aside for a demonstration for Native
American homeless or at-risk veterans who are living on or
near reservations. In 2016, vouchers sufficient to serve 500
veterans were awarded to 26 tribes. Funding has been
renewed in subsequent appropriations bills.
See Table 1 for funding and new VASH vouchers allocated
in each year. Funding supports VASH vouchers for one
year, after which they are absorbed into the Section 8
account. Cumulatively, through FY2018, funds were
sufficient to support more than 90,000 vouchers.
Table 1. HUD-VASH, Funding for New Vouchers
experiencing homelessness has declined, as described in the
Numbers and Characteristics
Based on HUD annual point-in-time (PIT) counts of
homeless individuals (taking place on one day during the
last week of January each year), the number of homeless
veterans has declined from 73,367 in 2009 to 37,878 in
2018. See Figure 2.
Note that the PIT count does not capture veterans who are
homeless at other times during the year. HUD uses data
from a sample of jurisdictions for full-year estimates of
veterans experiencing homelessness, but the data only
include veterans who are sheltered (living in emergency
shelter or transitional housing), not those living on the street
or other places not meant for human habitation.
As seen in Figure 2, in FY2009 not-quite 150,000 veterans
were estimated to be homeless and living in emergency
shelter or transitional housing. By FY2017 the number had
decreased to approximately 118,000 veterans.
Figure 2. Number of Homeless Veterans
Source: Appropriations laws and HUD notices.
Ending Veteran Homelessness
In 2009, the VA announced a plan to end veteran
homelessness by the end of FY2015. While the VA did not
reach its goal within that time, it continues to focus on
reducing the number of veterans experiencing
homelessness. From the time the announcement was made
to the present, obligations for targeted VA homeless
veterans programs have increased from $376 million in
FY2009 to more than $1.5 billion in FY2017. Figure 1
shows funding for select homeless veteran programs from
FY2005 to FY2017. (Note that the figure does not represent
all VA funding and includes DOL budget authority.)
During the same period, healthcare obligations for homeless
veterans have increased from $2.5 billion to $5.3 billion. As
funding for homeless veteran programs and healthcare has
increased, the number of veterans reported to be
Source: HUD Annual Homeless Assessment Reports (AHARs) to
Note: PIT estimates for 2009-2014 were revised as part of the 2015
According to HUD data, homeless veterans living in
emergency shelter and transitional housing are primarily
men (92%) and the majority (59%) have a disability. While
more than half of all veterans are age 62 and older (55%),
veterans in the 31-50 and 51-61 age groups make up 30%
and 42% of the homeless veteran population, respectively.
Veterans age 62 and older make up 19% of the homeless
veteran population, and those in the 18-30 age group make
up 8% of the total population. African American veterans
are overrepresented compared to their percentages in the
overall veteran population—38% of homeless veterans are
African American (compared to about 12% of all veterans).
Non-Hispanic white veterans are underrepresented, making
up 78% of all veterans but approximately 48% of homeless
Libby Perl, Specialist in Housing Policy
Veterans and Homelessness
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