Of state's homeless men, 1 in 5 are vets

  • Article by: MARK BRUNSWICK , Star Tribune
  • Updated: January 14, 2011 - 8:15 PM

As part of a larger study of homelessness in Minnesota, the Wilder Foundation found that one in 10 homeless adults in the state served in the military, with one in five homeless men represented in the group. The number and proportion of homeless women doubled from 2006 to 2009.

On Oct. 22, 2009, there were 669 homeless veterans residing in emergency shelters, battered women's shelters, transitional housing programs or in non-shelter locations, according to the study. The number of homeless veterans was 7 percent higher than in a study taken in 2006.

Close to half of the veterans surveyed served in the Army, 22 percent in the Navy, 17 percent in the Marines, 7 percent in the Air Force, 7 percent in the National Guard, 2 percent in the Reserves and less than 1 percent in the Coast Guard.

About 71 percent had lived in the state for more than five years, including 47 percent who'd lived in Minnesota for more than 20 years. Sixty percent had served in the military for more than two years and 26 percent reported having served in a combat zone -- 9 percent in Vietnam, 9 percent in the first Gulf War, and 5 percent in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Persons of color make up less than 11 percent of the state's overall population, but 46 percent of Minnesota's homeless veterans.

Even as Vietnam-era veterans remain the largest number of homeless vets (male median age is 48 compared to 39 for non-veteran men), the numbers suggest that more attention will be needed for post-9/11 vets, whose combat exposures and "risk markers" for homelessness may be unique. The Wilder survey shows that 84 percent of homeless veterans have at least one serious or chronic disability and more than one-third have a history that might indicate a traumatic brain injury.

The study suggests a more urgent need to assess potential problems following discharge from the military.

Mark Brunswick • 612-673-4434

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