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Sunday, February 04, 2007

Nearly 200,000 Veterans May Be Homeless Tonight

Americans say they want to "support the troops." But what about the veterans?

Nearly 200,000 veterans may be homeless on any given night and twice that many veterans experience homelessness during the year, according to a report released by a coalition of advocates for homeless persons.

The report released finds that affordable, permanent housing coupled with supportive services provides a powerful tool for preventing and ending homelessness among veterans, particularly thosewho confront chronic disabling health problems such as mental illness, substance addiction and HIV/AIDS.

Homeless male veterans are more likely to be homeless for an extended period of time than homeless male non-veterans, the report, titled "Ending Homelessness Among Veterans Through Permanent Supportive Housing," says.

The report notes that 32 percent of homeless male veterans reported that their last homeless episode lasted 13 or more months compared to 17 percent of male homeless non-veterans.

Homeless housing and service providers reported that they are already serving returning Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans at local emergency shelters, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs-financed transitional housing programs and local permanent supportive housingprojects. Participants noted that while it is too soon to have a complete picture, evidence suggests that unique risk factors for homelessness and mental illness will confront veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan.

These factors include a housing market that is far tighter and morecostly than it was in the Vietnam era. Expert observers also contend thatthe nature of the current conflicts, including the near-complete blurring of combat versus non-combat zones, will generate higher rates of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and other mental health traumas. A recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association documented that 19 percent of soldiers who served in Iraq screened positive for the signs and symptoms of a mental health disorder.

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