Monday, April 14, 2014

Navy Times reports rural homeless U.S. veterans are older and less cared for than urban ones

The Housing Assistance Council report that homeless U.S. veterans in rural areas suffer from geographic isolation, making it difficult for them to get help, Leo Shane reports for the Navy Times. Another problem is that veterans in rural areas are, on average, 18 years older than those in urban areas and "face challenges in paying for property upkeep and modernization, which can force them into substandard living conditions." In 10 years 70 percent of all rural veterans will be over 65 years old, according to the council's report, "From Service to Shelter."

Though the number of homeless veterans was down to 57,849 in January 2013, and President Obama wants no U.S. veterans to be homeless by the end of 2015, "declaring victory in rural areas is much more difficult," Shane writes. "In many towns far from urban centers, housing options are sparse," and Department of Veterans Affairs services are harder to get. Eric Oberdorfer, research associate at the council, told Shane, "Because many live far away from VA offices and other resources, they can’t access them, or they might not even be aware that programs exist.” About 5.6 million veterans, or 25 percent of all veterans, are from rural areas as of 2010, the report states.

Over the past five years, nearly 60,000 Housing and Urban Development Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers have been issued to help provide stable housing for at-risk veterans and their families, Shane writes. "But Oberdorfer said only about 3 percent of those vouchers have been allocated to VA medical centers in rural regions. Rules for the vouchers stipulate that veterans must apply them toward housing 'within a reasonable distance from a VA facility' so case managers can provide assistance and oversight." (Read more) (Housing Assistance Council graphic)

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