While risk factors for homelessness among veterans can range from military pay grade to adverse life experiences, one of the biggest influences is access to affordable housing. BU School of Social Work Prof. Thomas Byrne spoke to The Brink about the veteran population, the effectiveness of government housing initiatives, and what still needs to be done to decrease the number of veterans experiencing homelessness.
Excerpt from “Why Veterans Remain at Greater Risk of Homelessness” by Andrew Thurston:
In some ways, the stigma of homelessness is an extension of the stigma that surrounds poverty in this country more broadly. Some of that is just deeply rooted in what we—broadly speaking, as an American society—value in individualism and self-reliance. We see poverty and homelessness as moral failings of individuals, when in reality there’s a lot of evidence, including work that I’ve done, that links homelessness in the aggregate most strongly to housing market conditions, the lack of affordable housing. It’s often the product of structural factors that mean we’re going to have some amount of homelessness, and then individual vulnerabilities that place people at a higher risk.
There’s a lot of stigma, but there ought not be. For most veterans and people who are experiencing homelessness, it’s a really temporary phenomenon. It’s not something that people fall into and never escape from—it’s a housing crisis that people experience. More often than not, if people get some assistance to resolve that housing crisis, they’re likely to remain stably housed thereafter.”