There are less homeless veterans across the nation. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) found about a 5 percent decrease in veterans facing homelessness from last year.
In the bigger picture, 33 states saw a decrease in numbers this year. Arizona contributes about two percent to the nation's homeless veterans population. And the Grand Canyon state's count saw almost an eight percent drop.
Here are the numbers for Arizona:
- There are 893 homeless veterans in the state.
- 203 of those are in Tucson and Pima County.
The general amount of homeless people in Arizona:
- A total of 1,380
- 179 of them are children younger than 18 years old
- 133 of them are between the ages of 18 and 24
- 1,068 of them are over 24 years old
Stephanie Smelnick, Arizona's HUD field director in Phoenix, credits the decrease to many programs that were created within the last 10 years. For example, housing vouchers can supplement a percentage of the person's income to help them have a place to live.
"They have their vet benefits or they have social security, or whatever it is their small income is, and they can't afford an apartment. So because we supplement their rent, they have a place to stay," Smelnick.
In addition to vouchers, Veterans Affairs provides services that help improve veterans' mental and physical health. But despite the programs available to help curb homelessness. The VA and HUD say that reaching zero homeless veterans nationwide is not a realistic goal.
"We understand that we're never going to end homelessness to zero. There is always going to be someone at some point who runs into a problem. So what we need is to come up with a plan to have a system in place," said Smelnick.
Smelnick also told me homelessness usually peaks after a conflict, like a war, when our troops come back home and may experience mental heath issues or even more mainstream, when the economy is low and it becomes harder to find jobs.
There are several points all over the state in which one can call and ask for help if they are facing homelessness in the near future. Click the links to view programs that can help in Pima County: Tucson Pima Collaboration to End Homelessness.