Black veterans have long led civil rights movements yet continue to face unique forms of discrimination and racism. From military segregation to the lynching of Black veterans and the denial of veteran benefits such as the GI Bill and VA home loans, the issues Black veterans have faced often go untold, impacting them and their families.
For many, Black History Month is a time to honor the accomplishments and sacrifices of those who paved the way for us, but at (National Coalition for Homeless VEterans) NCHV it was a time to double down on efforts to erase the inequities that Black veterans experiencing housing instability face.
At its core, homelessness is caused by a fundamental mismatch between the availability of affordable housing in a community’s housing market and an individual’s ability to pay for housing.
According to HUD, the average rental price has increased by four percent annually over the last decade and a staggering 66 percent between 2010 and 2020.
Yet the federal minimum wage has remained unadjusted since 2009.
This mismatch, paired with weak social support networks and institutional and systemic racism, has been the major driver for the nationwide rise in housing instability that we have seen over the last several years.
While discrimination is not the sole cause, there is no doubt that it correlates to the higher rates of unemployment, hunger, and homelessness evident in the Black veteran population, as compared to the veteran population.
Black veterans comprise 33 percent of the population of veterans experiencing homelessness, but only 12 percent of the veteran population. Black veterans also had the highest unemployment rate of any race of veterans in 2020.
When we think about how to address this issue, there are many challenges to pinpoint in the process.
From the rates that veterans fall into homelessness, to the speed at which we are able to move them back into housing, to the services and supports they are able to access in order to move on into housing, to whether they are able to stay in housing long term, all have a variety of issues associated with them and solutions tied to them.
These challenges are often different from community to community, necessitating solutions targeted at the dynamics of a given community and its challenges.
At a national level, we need to have a better understanding of how veterans move through the system, and how other veteran-focused services and supports may be contributing to the inequities among the homeless population.
Veteran homelessness has myriad contributing factors, meaning that many systems and organizations across a community must commit to solutions to ensure no veteran is homeless.
The long reach of white supremacy is a key issue that must be tackled head on, in all sectors from the military to the housing and labor markets, to health care systems and beyond. When we make progress toward equity for Black veterans, we make progress for all veterans.
Visit www.nchv.org to learn about the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.