National initiatives to reduce veteran homelessness

Number of homeless vets down this year, but still high

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Obama administration is unveiling new statistics aimed to end veteran homelessness by 2015.

The number of ex-servicemen living on the streets is down by 7 percent this year, but homeless advocates say they are seeing an alarming rise in the number of younger homeless veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Homeless vets are getting younger," said Dawn Gilman, of the Homeless Coalition in Jacksonville.

It's something Gilman has a close eye on in the River City -- younger veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan living on the streets.

The U.S. Department of Housing announced a decline in homeless numbers overall, but advocates say still much more needs to be done.

"Many of the veterans returning from Iraq or Afghanistan have PTSD or the closed head injury that makes that similar to someone who has some mental health issues," Gilman said. "They need more assistance getting those issues under control."

On a single night in January, 62,619 veterans were homeless. That's a decrease by 17.2 percent since January 2009. Advocates are counting on more progress next year.

Gilman and other advocates point to a number of newer strategies focused around housing, aimed at making sure the homeless have options that work, including a $60 million rapid rehousing initiative by the U.S. Department of Veterans affairs and a HUD-VA partnership giving eligible veterans vouchers.

Gilman said not only are homeless veterans younger, their overall demographic is changing.

"We are seeing more women, families, and that's the changing face of homelessness on the veterans side and the general population," Gilman said.

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