Challenges Facing Young Homeless Veterans

Challenges Facing Young homeless Veterans

Experts underscore how the affordability crisis disproportionately affects veterans, especially young ones, heightening their risk of homelessness. Despite their service, barriers such as PTSD and job discrimination hinder their ability to secure stable housing and employment.

Veterans are Disproportionately Impacted by the Affordability Crisis and Becoming Homeless

The affordability crisis is creating a ripple effect that often segways into homelessness. While all Americans are vulnerable to the tragic phenomenon, veterans, particularly young veterans, are at an elevated risk. Read on to learn the surprising reasons behind their plight.

The Modern Veteran’s Unique Struggle to Obtaining Housing and Employment

We’ve all felt the pinch of the post-pandemic economy—a nickel here, a penny there, a double-digit rent hike with each new lease, etc. It isn’t your imagination. Hyperinflation, stagnant wages, and skyrocketing housing costs are arguably even worse now than in the era of the Great Depression.

It bears noting that extremely wealthy US residents are not struggling with the same woes as the rest of us. Their wealth is actually increasing, creating a system of wealth inequality that is also a secondary underlying cause of homelessness.

Some populations within the American economy are suffering more than others. This is true of people living in abject poverty, individuals and families who are already historically oppressed, such as Blacks and Latinos, and, perhaps less predictably, young military veterans.

Today, we sat down with Counselor Bruce Lockett of Philadelphia’s Elwyn Crisis Center to gain some perspective on why homelessness appears to be targeting veteran youth. The answer was shocking.

“During my many years of working in the psych unit, I’ve always seen a high influx of homeless veterans,” Bruce said. “It could be my imagination, but it feels like we get more of them every year. And young veterans! I’ve seen a lot of young veterans. It’s very sad.”

“A lot of them suffer from PTSD, schizophrenia, or bipolar disorder,” Bruce continued. “They don’t like to talk about the things they’ve seen. They tell me that they go apply for jobs when they get back, and they get depressed because they can’t find a job.”

Bruce paused for a moment as he recalled one specific disheartening example.

“I’ll never forget this, although it happened maybe 15 years ago,” Bruce started. “One veteran, about 27 years old, said that over a span of six months, he went on 15 job interviews. And I said, ‘And you didn’t get one?’ He said he finally asked the hiring manager during the last interview, ‘Can you be honest with me? Why am I not getting this job?‘ He told the guy interviewing him that this was his 15th job interview. ‘I just don’t understand why I’m not getting a job. I just came from serving my country eight months ago. I want to work. I’m a hard worker.‘”

“The employer interviewing him from HR was honest because he wanted to help the kid,” Bruce continued. “The HR rep said to this former soldier, ‘I’m gonna tell you this, and I’m sorry. Most companies don’t want to take on the burden of a veteran because of the mental health disorders that come along with hiring veterans. So, when we see the veteran’s application, if the potential hires don’t have degrees, bachelor’s degrees, or master’s degrees, if they don’t have these high qualifications, we take their application, and we put it under the pile.'”

Bruce shook his head in recollection, still feeling the sting.

“I never expected him to tell me that. And he told me that he appreciated the HR rep’s honesty. But he said when he got back outside to his car, he broke down screaming and crying. And he said that, ‘No. I don’t have a degree because I just came back from war, and I’m only 27 years old.'”

“So, he spent his entire adult life in the army. Then, when he came home, he just wanted to get a job and go to work,” Bruce continued. “Now, to be fair, there are a lot of veterans who do come home and get jobs in law enforcement and things like that. But this denial of employment is a common trend that we see in the psych wards and at the crisis centers. And, oftentimes, it can lead to things like depression, even if the individual did not have mental health problems when they first returned home.”

Housing Remains Unaffordable for Most Veterans

In previous generations, serving in the US military drastically increased the odds of employment and homeownership. But the latest data shows a spiraling trend as young veterans, when applying for home loans and decent-paying jobs, are now at a gaping disadvantage when compared to their non-military counterparts.

Newsweek reports that veteran homelessness recently saw its largest increase in 12 years, skyrocketing a whopping 7.4%.

And while housing homeless veterans continues to present as a seemingly impossible task, the US still manages to find billions of dollars to fund lifelong forever wars. Tents and bombs and inequality dot the global landscape, leaving one important question, which is this:

Where is all that justice our soldiers were told they were fighting for? What good is so-called national security if the very soldiers sent into the trenches can’t even access housing security when they return?

Talk To Your Representatives About Making Housing Affordable for Veterans and All Americans

US veterans face a myriad of economic challenges, such as:

  • low paying wages
  • limited social support
  • higher risk of disabilities (even when compared to previous generations of former soldiers)
  • and low rates of affordable housing

This is what is fueling the overall increase in veteran homelessness. The only way to stop the spiral is to change the system that supports it. The old way of ignoring the problem, blaming the victim, or shoving these social issues out of the public eye still isn’t working. Talk to your representatives about taking a more innovative approach by making housing a human right.

Cynthia Griffith

Cynthia Griffith


Cynthia Griffith is a freelance writer dedicated to social justice and environmental issues.

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