Knowing the extent of veteran needs in your city or town is a critical first step in making an impact. Not all needs are the same. Some veterans have experienced chronic homelessness and/or have severe injuries requiring long-term supportive services. Other veterans have more moderate disabilities that can improve with monitored treatment and therapy. Still others may require accessibility modifications and/or home repairs and are able to live independently.
There are several places in a community that can help establish the existing need.
The National Center for Veteran Analysis and Statistics (NCVAS) and American FactFinder are important sources of data to help provide a contextual understanding of the veteran population in your community. You can find information such as age, race, income, employment, household size, disability status and more. These data sources can provide a baseline of information that can encourage others in the community to form partnerships aimed at increasing cooperation and support for housing for disabled veterans.
While an understanding of veteran needs from the 30,000 foot level can be helpful to get efforts started, nothing can replace locally available knowledge. Resources available through VA medical centers need to be understood and connected with community delivered resources in order to best support and complement the work of the VA. Conversations with the public affairs office at VA facilities, military installations, and with National Guard or military reserve units can also be starting points for identifying what resources exist, and are needed, for veterans locally. Additionally, conversations with local service and veteran organizations like the VFW, American Legion or the local Disabled American Veterans chapter can be helpful, as can conversations with church leaders, community action agencies and hospitals.
To better understand how many homeless veterans are in your community, you can look at data from your community’s Homeless Management Information System (HMIS). The HMIS is an electronic data collection system that stores information about people who access the homeless services that receive funding from several of HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs.