Site Overlay

Racial equity key in campaign to end Veteran homelessness

You only have to glance at the data on Veteran homelessness to know that something doesn’t seem to be adding up. While Black Veterans make up about 12% of the overall Veteran population, they account for 31% of the homeless Veteran population. Other racial minorities are similarly overrepresented.

Addressing these racial equity issues is going to take intentional effort, which is already well underway at VA to ensure all Veterans have the individualized resources and support they need to climb out of homelessness.

A trio of guests appeared on the February episode of our Ending Veteran Homelessness podcast to talk about what VA is doing and why racial equity is so critical in the fight to end Veteran homelessness. VA Homeless Programs Office staff joining the discussion included:

Anthony Love, principal advisor to the executive director and director of community engagement

Dr. Carmela Daniels, diversity, equity and inclusion specialist

Dr. Matthew Stimmel, national training director for the Veterans Justice Program

Listen to S1EP22: Why Racial Equity is Critical to Ending Veteran Homelessness.

Defining equity

Equity is often confused with treating everyone equally. It is about giving everyone the access they need to get the same result and that access may look different for each person.

Love gave this example: You have two children sitting the same distance from the board at school. One can clearly see the writing on the board. The other just sees fuzzy letters. Getting glasses for the second child so they have the same chance to learn would be equitable.

People from minority racial groups have historically been denied the same chance when it comes to housing, education and employment. After World War II, non-white Veterans did not have access to the G.I. Bill, which allowed many white Veterans to build up the kind of generational wealth that can protect against homelessness.

“The uniform you wear doesn’t necessarily cover up the skin that you’re in,” said Love. “It doesn’t exempt a Veteran from the societal ills that impact other members of that particular racial group.”

By incorporating racial equity into our campaign against Veteran homelessness, we’re working to give Veterans from historically underserved groups the additional assistance they need to get to the same starting line as everyone else. We won’t be able to continue making significant strides to end Veteran homelessness without this approach.

Our work

Racial equity is embedded in the work we’re doing from the top down. It’s included in our strategic planning and the yearly goals we set for ourselves.

Founded four years ago, our Racial Equity and Racial Justice Workgroup is led by the frontline staff who do the boots-on-the-ground work to end Veteran homelessness every day. A Veteran-focused subcommittee is led by Veterans themselves and tasked with guiding staff through cultural competence training.

We are also gathering data and looking at it closely so we can ensure we’re providing equitable access to services for all Veterans nationwide.

“You treat everyone the same in terms of the amount of dignity, respect and compassion you give them,” said Stimmel. “But that’s different than what you offer them as a service provider when you know they’re starting from behind the eight ball in terms of this historical precedent for restricting access to housing, restricting access to education, restricting access to employment advancement… all sorts of things that have impacted different communities and particularly communities of color.”

Learn about VA programs 

If you are a Veteran who is homeless or at risk for homelessness, call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-4AID-VET (877-424-3838).

Visit the VA Homeless Programs website to learn about housing initiatives and other programs for Veterans exiting homelessness. 

Check out the Ending Veteran Homelessness podcast to learn more about what VA is doing about Veteran homelessness. 

Learn how to get involved with housing homeless Veterans. Subscribe to the Homeless Programs Office newsletter to receive monthly updates about programs and supportive services for Veterans experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

Welcome to your local American Legion! We will no longer be open for dinner on Mondays and Tuesdays.