Homelessness among veterans in Minnesota has decreased since 2009, suggesting that increased efforts to reach homeless veterans may be paying off, according to a new report by Wilder Research.
In 2012, 580 homeless veterans were counted on the night of the survey, down from 669 in the previous survey in 2009. The Wilder survey, which is regarded as the definitive count of homelessness in the state, counted 542 male veterans, a 10 percent decline from the 605 counted in 2009. The decline among female veterans was even more dramatic. The survey counted 38 female veterans compared to 64 three years earlier, a drop of 41 percent.
Among the report’s findings:
• More than half of male homeless veterans in Minnesota are over age 50, compared with about one-quarter of Minnesota’s overall male homeless population. Seventy percent of all homeless veterans have lived in Minnesota five years or longer and over half have lived in Minnesota more than 20 years.
• About 37 percent of Minnesota’s homeless veterans are persons of color, compared with less than 11 percent of the state’s overall population. Particularly overrepresented are African-Americans in the Twin Cities seven-county area at 33 percent.
• One-quarter of homeless veterans reported serving in a combat zone. Ten percent served in a combat zone in Vietnam, 4 percent in the first Gulf War and 8 percent in the Iraq war or Afghanistan. Nearly half of homeless veterans reported service-related health problems, primarily mental health problems (44 percent) and hearing/ear problems (33 percent).
• In the year before the survey, 45 percent of homeless veterans took advantage of benefits. That’s an increase from 42 percent in 2009 and 33 percent in 2006. The benefits most frequently used were Department of Veterans Affairs medical services (34 percent) and service-related compensation (19 percent). In addition, about one-third of homeless military veterans reported they had contact with a County Veterans Service Officer over the past 12 months.