Housing Rehabilitation for Veterans with Disabilities

A joint initiative of the National League of Cities and the Home Depot Foundation.The Home Depot Foundation

"The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation."

- George Washington

With the active draw-down of combat military forces overseas, the nation's cities and towns will in the coming years see an influx of returning armed forces veterans in search of jobs, homes, schools and medical facilities - in short, a place to put down roots and raise a family. Each of these veterans brings tremendous talents and gifts, and all of them will be in need of our welcome, our acknowledgment of their commitment to this country and our sensitivity to the needs that they and their families face as they return to civilian life.

The scale is impressive. There are more than 20 million veterans in the United States who have served their country since World War II. More than 2.3 million American military personnel have been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or both during the past decade alone. However, the nation's veterans - those who give so much through their service - often face difficult challenges upon their return home.

Veterans return from their service changed by their experience to homes and communities that are likely to have also changed. Reintegrating into a community is further complicated when a veteran is dealing with a visible, or not visible, wound, injury or illness. For some, the transition is too much. Veterans equal 8% of the general population, yet they form 16% of the homeless population. Statistics from 2011 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development found 67,495 homeless veterans in communities across the county.

Without a stable, accessible and safe place to call home, veteran's needs are compounded. Employment opportunities and medical appointments are missed; mental health can deteriorate, increasing the likelihood of self-medication and substance abuse. At the most basic level, veterans without a home or without housing that meets their needs are unable to fully reintegrate and participate in their community. Successful reintegration requires a community to help veteran's access housing, education, employment, healthcare and other support opportunities.

Elected officials and municipal staff can leverage local, state and federal resources and provide critical leadership to support the work of non-profits, military service organizations, faith communities, educational institutions, local businesses and foundations to ensure success in the post-service lives of all veterans. To help local government officials be advocates for American military veterans and their families, NLC is dedicating resources in support of the work of the Home Depot Foundation to target the housing rehabilitation needs of disabled veterans.

    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 accommodations and are able to live independently.

    There are several places in a community that can help establish the existing need.

    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 McKiney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs.

    Another source of information about your city or town's veteran population is the regional Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC). Find the nearest VAMC.

    Check back soon for more information on how your community can integrate data on your city's veteran population into a strategic plan for helping meet veterans housing needs.