Panel Paper: Reducing Veteran Homelessness in Washington, DC

Saturday, April 8, 2017 : 2:30 PM
Founders Hall Room 478 (George Mason University Schar School of Policy)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Marvin C Walker, Northeastern University
Homelessness in the United States has been a severe and challenging social epidemic for decades and has had significant impacts on many Americans. Many factors contribute to the rise and fall of the official annual homeless numbers. Some of these problems include inadequate resources, lack of interest in addressing homelessness as a whole, and the various social stigmas associated with homelessness in general. For many decades federal, state, and local governments have tried to remedy these challenges but have only seen small scale successes. This study focuses primarily on exploring some of the many associated problems with homelessness with a particular emphasis on veteran homelessness.

This study also examines alternative approaches and proposes an idea of using non-profit organizations to supplement the government’s efforts at the national level regarding problem-solving and prevention techniques. More specifically this research explores whether humanitarian agencies have the capacity and interest in contributing toward reducing veteran homelessness in Washington, DC. Furthermore, this research aims to understand homelessness from an individual perspective, using different homeless stories to address challenges and identify potential remedies.

According to a 2011 VA-sponsored study on veteran homelessness conducted by the Evidence-based Synthesis Program (ESP), specific underlying risk factors are unique to the individual veteran (Balshem, Christensen, & Tuepker, 2011). What this means is that the problems homeless people face while they may appear similar may be unique to each person’s particular situation. Therefore, the type of services provided to homeless individuals must also be tailored to the individual needs of homelessness. One main challenge that remains is the concept of finding broad-scale solutions to reach the many thousands of homeless people. Policymakers need to focus on a well-structured approach that deals with the varying degrees of problems across the board. This project provides an in-depth analysis of some of the more challenging issues. The research questions for this study are:

  • Does the Department of Veterans Affairs have the capabilities to reduce veteran homelessness in Washington, DC using its current approach?
  • How can the VA improve trustworthiness with the DC homeless veteran population?
  • What are the constraints on the VA in reducing veteran homelessness in DC?
  • To what extent do humanitarian organizations have the capacity and interest in contributing toward reducing veteran homelessness in Washington, DC?

This study is important because it focuses on the inadequacies in the current systematic approaches to assisting homeless veterans. Furthermore, this study focuses on lessons learned, and risk mitigation approaches through a collaborative and coalition-based approach to addressing the problem of veteran homelessness. No military veteran should be a victim of homelessness. The men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces have made tremendous sacrifices on behalf of the American people and deserved the very best we have to offer. This research seeks to understand current barriers to care and test the proposed theory of potentially uncovering the more divisive issues stopping aid to our heroes who have served us so proudly and honorably.