Veteran Homelessness Categorization Limitations by Shawn Dowling, Veterans Matter CEO. | Published: February 27, 2023

In the United States, resources for Homeless Veterans and their Families are attached to a “category” or type of Homelessness. That makes sense, right? This is why we have directions, maps, Google, and manuals. Veterans ask themselves, “What happens when we do not fit into a category or a type?” Others ask, “What if I am the square peg being asked to fit into the round hole?” And ultimately, “Will I be homeless forever?”

Homeless Categorization according to the US Dept of Housing & Urban Development

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development is responsible for defining Homelessness in the United States. We currently follow the Hearth Act and there are four categories or types of Homelessness:

Literally Homeless in: Shelter, transitional housing, or Safe Haven; Place not meant for human habitation; or Exiting an institution where (s)he has resided for 90 days or less and was in a shelter or place not meant for human habitation immediately before entering the institution.

Imminent Risk of Homelessness: Losing housing within 14 days; No subsequent residence identified; The person lacks the resources or support networks needed to obtain other housing

Homeless under other Federal Statutes: Unaccompanied youth under 25 years of age or families with children who are homeless under other federal statutes; No lease, ownership interest, or occupancy agreement for permanent housing in the last 60 days; Persistent housing instability; 2 or more moves in last 60 days – Expected to retain homeless status due to special needs or 2 or more barriers to employment

Fleeing/Attempting to Flee Domestic Violence: No housing options; No financial resources or support.

Click here to view the Federal Registry where the law is written, if you have a minute, read through the entire section, it will be worth your time.

Homeless Categorization often falls short of Veterans’ real-life situations

These categories or types make perfect sense until we meet a 30-year-old OIF Veteran. He went to prison due to self-destructive behaviors related to legal and illegal gambling. The Veteran was not homeless prior to arrest and spent 12 months at a minimum-security prison. In planning for his release, the Veteran will be told that he is not homeless. This is because he has been incarcerated for more than 90 days and he was not homeless at the time of incarceration. Our Veteran will have to demonstrate Homelessness by entering a shelter or living outside so that he can demonstrate Homelessness.

We live in a Democracy that values and respect laws, whereas public servants, we pledged to uphold the United States Constitution. Until we meet a 28-year-old OND combat Veteran who is sleeping on the couch at her mother’s home. She has a job and brings home $350 a week. The average cost of a one-bedroom apartment is $1100 a month plus utilities.

When she calls and asks for assistance with permanent housing, she is told that she is not “Homeless.” She’s then provided resources to rent an apartment on her own.

Homeless Veterans deserve access to affordable housing without the “red tape”

These are a few of the hidden barriers that our Veterans face when seeking support and resources for access to affordable permanent housing. When you speak with others, share some of this information. For our Veterans, exiting Homelessness and securing affordable permanent housing can be next to impossible.

Our Homeless Veterans deserve access to affordable housing. They deserve to enter this housing without having to become a “shelter resident” or be “admitted” to a Homeless Women’s Shelter Program. These programs require the Veteran will have to compromise her values, morals, and autonomy to secure safe and affordable housing.

At Veterans Matter, we work to reduce the amount of time a Veteran will be in a shelter or on the streets-we send checks to landlords within 24 hours of the Veteran’s referral to our program. Join us as we quickly house our Heroes who deserve to be living in safe affordable housing.