Texas Homeless Network

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An Examination of Veteran Homelessness in Texas

An Examination of Veteran Homelessness in Texas

By: Anja Taylor

Veteran sitting in front of a car with an army hat on with a white and brown cocker spaniel in his lap and a coffee cup in the foreground with a dollar hanging off of it and a small American flag coming out of it. He is holding a small sign on the ground in front of him that says Homeless Vet: Support Our TroopsUnderstanding the state of veteran homelessness is crucial in our mission to provide safe and stable housing for those who have served our country. Today, we examine national trends, shedding light on the challenges faced by veterans across the United States.

We then focus on Texas-specific data, thanks to the comprehensive insights provided by the Texas Homeless Network’s Texas Homeless Data Sharing Network (THDSN). By examining this data, we can better understand the scope of the issue and work towards effective solutions to ensure no veteran is left without a home.

National Snapshot of Veteran Homelessness

On December 15, 2023, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the results of the 2023 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count, the annual effort to estimate the number of Americans, including Veterans, without safe, stable, or permanent housing. 

The PIT Count data shows that, in 2023, 35,574 Veterans (or 22 of every 10,000 Veterans in the United States) were experiencing homelessness. This figure reflects a 7.4% increase in the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness from 2022. The rise in Veteran homelessness between 2022 and 2023 may be attributed to the late-stage effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the gradual end of pandemic-era protections. Moreover, Veterans fall into homelessness at a higher rate than the overall population. 

Still, despite this increase, there is an overall downward trend in Veteran homelessness. Between 2010 and 2022, the estimated number of Veterans experiencing homelessness in the United States declined by 52%. These data show that the goal of ending homelessness among Veterans is not only within reach – it is already happening across communities. 

Data and Methodology 

While the PIT Count offers a snapshot of experiences of homelessness—both sheltered and unsheltered—on a single night in January, it only captures a small portion of those who experience literal homelessness each year. The Texas Homeless Data Sharing Network (THDSN), which collects data on homelessness across an entire year, aims to fill this knowledge gap and strengthen statewide efforts to alleviate the interrelated issues of poverty and homelessness. 

shows the CoCs participating in this initiative, representing 237 of 254 (or 93%) of Texas counties. The THDSN captures data from local Homeless Management Information Systems (HMIS). HMIS is an electronic data collection system that stores longitudinal client-level information about those who access the homeless services system through a Continuum of Care (CoC) program. 

The estimates presented in this report reflect data collected from aggregated HMIS records maintained by nine (9) of eleven (11) Texas homeless response systems, otherwise known as Continuums of Care (CoCs), from January 1, 2018, through December 31, 2023. Figure 1 shows the CoCs participating in this initiative, representing 237 of 254 (or 93%) of Texas counties. 

Veteran Homelessness in Texas

Homeless veteran holding his Korea Veteran Hat wrapped in a red sleeping bag sitting on a sidewalkTexas has eleven (11) CoCs across the state: six (6) major cities, two (2) other largely urban CoCs, and three (3) larger rural CoCs. In 2023, a minimum of 4,103 Veterans (or 4,042 Veteran households) were reported to have experienced homelessness across Texas CoCs. This number represents the total number of Veterans who fell into homelessness in Texas from January 1, 2023, to December 31, 2023, and who accessed services from either state—or federally-funded programs. 

From 2022 to 2023, Veteran homelessness increased by 3.7% (or 145 Veterans). This increase may be attributed to a lack of affordable housing and the end of pandemic-era protections, among other economic and policy-related factors. Yet, despite the 3.7% increase in Veteran homelessness between 2022 and 2023, the Veteran homeless population has trended downward in recent years (2018-2022).  

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Texas reported consistent but modest annual decreases in the Veteran homeless population. In 2018, for example, 5,184 Veterans received services from homeless providers. This number decreased to 4,671 in 2019 (a 9.9% reduction, or 513 fewer Veterans) in the Veteran homeless population between 2018 and 2019. 

The pandemic disrupted data collection in 2020 and 2021. Texas reported a 21.9% decrease in the Veteran homeless population (or 1,025 fewer Veterans) in 2020. Between 2020 and 2021, the Veteran population dropped another 4.4% (or 160 fewer Veterans) across Texas CoCs. The federal response to the pandemic and the decompression of shelters to promote public safety likely impacted these outcomes. Thus, estimates of the Veteran population in 2020 and 2021 should be viewed with caution, as the counts are anomalous compared to non-pandemic times.   Similar to nationwide data trends, Veteran homelessness across Texas has continued to decline. . Figure 2 shows estimates of the Veteran homeless population in Texas between 2018 and 2023.

Between 2018 and 2023, the total number of Veterans served by Texas CoCs dropped by 20.8% (or 1,081 fewer Veterans)

The Impact of Supportive Interventions

The decline in Veteran homelessness across Texas in recent years may be attributed to the downstream impact of evidence-based practices, such as Housing First, and other supportive interventions—Rapid Re-Housing (RRH), Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH), the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program, and the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program—that aim to prevent and end Veteran homelessness. 

Still, more Veterans need homeless assistance resources than capacity allows. In 2023, for example, 1,542 Veterans were reported to be newly homeless. An additional 353 Veterans re-entered homelessness the same year. Thus, while progress has been made to ensure that all Veterans have a safe and stable place to call home, moderate increases in the overall population indicate that there is more work to be done to combat the crisis of Veteran homelessness.

A Deeper Look: 2023 Texas Veteran Population Characteristics

      • Nearly all Veterans (97.6%) were experiencing homelessness as individuals. Of those individuals, 40.8% fell into homelessness at least two (2) or more times in the past three (3) years.  
      • 1.6% of Veterans experiencing homelessness (77 Veterans) were in family households with children (or a total of 66 households). Overall, 4,080 people experiencing homelessness were in households that included a Veteran. 
      • Men accounted for 87.2% (or 3,581 Veterans) of the total Veteran homeless population. This is similar to the share of Veterans in the United States who are men (90%).
      • Women accounted for 10.6% (or 436 Veterans) of the total Veteran homeless population. Further, less than 1% of the Veteran homeless population identified as non-binary, transgender, or gender-questioning. 
      • People who identify as Black, African American, or African were considerably overrepresented among Veterans experiencing homelessness. Black Veterans comprised 44.3% of Veterans experiencing homelessness but only 12% of all U.S. Veterans. Conversely, while 36.4% of Veterans experiencing homelessness were White, they were underrepresented compared to their share of all U.S. Veterans (75%). 
      • From 2022 to 2023, Veterans who identify as Black, African American, or African had the largest percentage increase across all race categories (a 1.6% increase, or 128 more Veterans). 
      • From 2022 to 2023, male Veterans experienced a 1.8% increase in homelessness, with an additional 201 male Veterans served. In contrast, the number of women Veterans declined by 1.3% (or 39 fewer Veterans).  
      • The majority (52.6%) of Veterans experiencing homelessness were at least 55 or older. Veterans 65 or older had the largest percentage increase across all age categories (a 2.2% increase, or 118 more Veterans). 
      • The majority (66.1%) of Veterans experiencing homelessness have at least one disability. 34.7% (or 1,427 Veterans) reported a physical disability, and 9.5% (or 393 Veterans) reported a developmental disability. 35.1% of the Veteran homeless population (or 1,444 Veterans) reported to be living with a chronic health condition. 
      • 47.8% of Veterans experiencing homelessness (or 1,964 Veterans) have a mental health disorder. This number increased by about 1% (or 107 more Veterans) between 2022 and 2023. In the past five years (2018-2023), the percentage of Veterans with a documented mental health disorder increased by 5.3% overall. 

The Work Ahead: Efforts to Combat Veteran Homelessness

All individuals, especially our nation’s Veterans, deserve a safe and stable place to call home. In 2023, Texas CoCs housed a minimum of 1,049 Veterans (see Figure 3). Yet, as more Veterans require homeless assistance, all communities across Texas need a system in place to combat Veteran homelessness. 


To meet the needs of our Veteran population, Texas Homeless Network (THN) has partnered with community-based entities, such as the Texas Veterans Commission, to identify ways to reduce Veteran-led households experiencing homelessness. Additional details about this partnership and the action steps that THN has taken to support unhoused Veterans will be released soon.

In 2023, Texas CoCs housed a minimum of 1,049 Veterans

As the number of unhoused Texans continues to rise, the importance of data collection and analysis cannot be underestimated. The THDSN offers an opportunity for CoCs, homeless service providers, and other systems of care to come together and implement sustainable solutions that prioritize housing stability, healthcare, and access to resources. 

This report would not have been possible without the THDSN and our CoC partners who contributed to this initiative. Their participation in this project allows us to better understand the magnitude of homelessness, which helps to ensure that homelessness in Texas is rare, brief, and non-recurring. 

References

      1. “The 2023 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress.” The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, December 15, 2023. https://www.huduser.gov/portal/sites/default/files/pdf/2023-AHAR-Part-1.pdf
      2. “Everyone Counts in the Effort to End Veteran Homelessness.” VA Homeless Programs, January 3, 2024. https://www.va.gov/homeless/pit_count.asp  
      3. “Using Data to Understand and End Homelessness.” Office of Policy Development and Research, 2012. https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/comm_planning/coc
      4. A household can be an unaccompanied adult, multiple adults, adults with children, or households of only children (each member aged under 18).
      5. This report captures the minimum number of homeless individuals or households in Texas, as data is only collected from participating HMIS service providers. Still, the THDSN remains the most comprehensive data resource available on the rate of homelessness in Texas.
      6. “Veteran Homelessness Increased by 7.4% in 2023.” VA News, December 15, 2023. https://news.va.gov/126913/veteran-homelessness-increased-by-7-4-in-2023/
      7. The number of times a client was on the Streets, in an Emergency Shelter (ES), or Safe Haven (SH) program in the past three (3) years.
      8. “The 2023 Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress.” The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, December 15, 2023. https://www.huduser.gov/portal/sites/default/files/pdf/2023-AHAR-Part-1.pdf 

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An Examination of Veteran Homelessness in Texas
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