-------- Original Message --------
Subject: One out of three homeless men in the United States are veterans
Date: Wed, 29 Dec 2010 20:39:31 -0600
From: Duncan McGhee
Reply-To:
Organization: Texas Veterans Commission
To: 'Gardner Selby' <wgselby@statesman.com>


Gardner,

 

... just so we’re on the same page, the quote you reference that is attributed to Ericka Walmsley in the Lubbock Online article (http://lubbockonline.com/local-news/2010-12-05/high-unemployment-rate-reduced-state-resources-tough-veterans) is:  “One out of three homeless men in the United States are veterans, Walmsley said, citing data from the Veterans Administration.”  

 

And to further clarify the position I must state, with emphasis, she did NOT state “1 in 3 homeless is a veteran”.  Your comment in the recent correspondence states “HUD and other experts have all told us the 1/3 figure is outdated and irrelevant to the current count of homeless males who are veterans.” I am curious to know who the “other experts” are.  The premise of your argument (that’s such an ugly word but it’s late and I’m running on an empty stomach so please indulge me) seems to revolve around the age of the data source(s) in question.  I believe you are postulating the age of the data makes it useless and the HUD data, by virtue of its age makes it, in the opinion of the Austin American Statesman, an authority in this matter.  If such is the case then contemporary data from more qualified sources supporting the 1/3 proposition should be given equal weight in the discussion. 

 

To give “relevance” to the number of male veterans versus male civilian homeless population I will reference the HUD document.  On page 22 it provides the following relevant characteristics of homeless;

·         Adult78 percent of all sheltered homeless persons are adults.

·         Male–61 percent are male.

 

In Section 2.1 on page 7 of the HUD document it states: “On a single night in January 2009, all Continuums of Care across the country were required to conduct a thorough enumeration of the homeless. In total, the 452 CoCs found 643,067 people who were literally homeless on the night of the count.”  Now, if we multiply the 643,067 figure by 78% (the percentage of adults as listed above) it will yield 501,592 and if we multiply that figure by the percentage that are male (61%) we get a total of 305,971 Adult Homeless Males.  Let’s table that figure for the time being and transition to the organization both President Obama and the Congress recognize as the leading authority on homelessness, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH).  The USICH is under legislative mandate (the HEARTH Act of 2009) to leverage all available resources, including HUD, to eradicate homelessness in America.  Accordingly, the USICH drafted and submitted its strategy to President Obama (please be sure to read the President’s letter) and the Congress in a strategic plan titled: Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness (http://www.usich.gov/PDF/OpeningDoors_2010_FSPPreventEndHomeless.pdf).

 

On page 20 under the heading Veterans in paragraph one it speaks to the declining number of homeless veterans over the past two years which is great news to be sure.  It also points to the VA estimate of 107,000 homeless veterans on any given night which is derived from the Community Homeless Assessment Local Education and Networking Groups (CHALENG) http://www1.va.gov/HOMELESS/chaleng.asp and http://www1.va.gov/HOMELESS/docs/chaleng/chaleng_sixteenth_annual_report.pdf. The USHIC document goes on to state the following:

 

“HUD’s 2009 point-in-time count stated there were 59,390 Veterans experiencing homelessness. That count is believed to undercount Veterans who are unsheltered. The point-in-time count objective is to obtain an accurate count and previously has not accurately established military service history. Efforts are underway to improve this count and to enhance identification of Veterans who are homeless.

 

Using the best information available, 107,000 Veterans experiencing homelessness on a given night is a reasonable figure and will be used as the baseline in this Plan.”

 

We should also jump back to the HUD document at this time which questions its own veteran related results:

 

“Thirteen percent of sheltered homeless adults were veterans, a lower percentage than has been reported elsewhere. There are several possible explanations for this discrepancy. First, the PIT data on veteran status are only for sheltered homeless people, and homeless veterans may be more likely to be unsheltered than other homeless people. If so, the percentage of sheltered homeless people who are veterans would be lower than the percentage of all homeless people who are veterans. Second, in some areas of the country, residential programs for the homeless that are funded through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs do not report data to the CoC. Finally, there is anecdotal evidence that homeless veterans sometimes do not divulge their veteran status to homeless program staff.”

 

So, since the folks whose focus is on homelessness and are under mandate from the President and the Congress to specifically address homelessness have decreed the VA data more accurate and the other folks question their own findings I believe I’ll go with the USIHC recommendation.  However, the 107,000 represents the total homeless veteran population and not the homeless MALE population.  For that we will need to leverage census data from a reputable source of which there are many but for this exercise I’ll use the U.S. Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/national_security_veterans_affairs/veterans.html ). If you open table #510 it will provide you an Excel spreadsheet with 1) total veterans and 2) male veterans.  Using male veterans as the numerator and total veterans as the denominator will yield male veterans as 93% of the total veteran population.  So, if we apply that percentage to the veteran homeless total of 107,000 we get a yield of 99,720 male homeless veterans.

 

Now it’s time to bring our tabled figure above from the HUD document into play.  That figure was/is 305,971 Adult Homeless Males. Using that figure as the denominator and our calculated figure of 99,720 male homeless veterans as the numerator it presents 40%, a percentage that slightly more than 1 in 3 veteran to civilian male homeless and that my friend is indeed relevant.

 

Before I close this out and go home to my family there are a few tidbits of information I would like to share.  More than 80 % of the Texas Veterans Commission personnel are veterans.  The 20% non- veterans employees are administrative and support staff.  It is our desire that veteran homelessness be stamped out once and for all but I fear that is an extremely tall order. Veterans who’ve served in combat theaters of operation are exposed to horrors others cannot begin to imagine and for some they cannot free themselves of that horror long enough to maintain a job or a residence.  So, you will write what you will write regardless of the data I’ve presented for that is your job but I contend, as I have all along, the comment made was and is accurate; “One out of three homeless men in the United States are veterans.”

 

Kindest regards,

 

Duncan

 

Duncan McGhee

Director of Communications

Texas Veterans Commission