Resources for Homeless Veterans in California

“We always say we’ll never leave a soldier on the battlefield. We shouldn’t leave him on the streets of America, either.” — Mitch Landrieu, former Mayor of New Orleans 

On any single night, more than 30,000 veterans may be experiencing homelessness in the United States. These veterans are spread out across the country. However, around 31% are in California. 

This population faces unique challenges in addition to the hardships of being homeless. If you are looking for resources to improve veteran homelessness in California, this guide has information you can use to help yourself and others. 

Statistics on Veteran Homelessness in California 

According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, California has the country’s largest number of homeless veterans. More than 11,000 veterans live on California’s streets, many of whom have little support. This number is nearly five times more than the second state on the list, Florida. 

California also has the highest rate of unsheltered veterans, at 70.1%. In 2020, nearly 8,000 were unsheltered. When complex issues are factored in, such as worsening PTSD symptoms, these individuals face an increased risk of harm. 

General Care Resources for Veterans 

Veterans in California have a long list of resources available to them. However, many do not access the resources they are entitled to. Some are federal and national resources, while others are state or local. Sometimes, these individuals need someone to advocate on their behalf — especially if they are dealing with trauma or severe mental health issues related to war. These individuals often possess unique skills invaluable in America’s job market. They need support to help them get from point A to point B, which is where these resources come into play. 

While this is not a comprehensive list, it does cover the major groups and organizations — many of which will happily provide personalized support and recommendations.

Federal Resources 

  • U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) — The goal of the VA is to provide veterans with the world-class benefits and services they have earned. For example, veterans can access the Veterans Health Administration and Veterans Benefits. 
  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture — Offers veterans employment, education, and entrepreneurship opportunities. Again, many veterans have skills that apply to farming and agriculture. Grants and financing options are available to those who wish to start their own business. 

The VA provides a long list of federal agencies that support veterans. For example, the Department of Defense has created homeless prevention programs, while Housing and Urban Development help veterans find permanent housing. 

National Resources

  • National Coalition for Homeless Veterans — This national organization is the only one of its kind focused on ending veteran-related homelessness.
  • U.S. Vets — “Serving those who served,” this non-profit offers emergency support, housing assistance, and related resources. In addition to housing, they provide mental health support. 
  • Hire Heroes USA — This group helps military personnel transition to civilian life, helping them find lasting careers. This intervention is sometimes the difference between a veteran thriving and living on the street. 
  • Veterans Crisis Line — Mental health complications are a significant issue that must be addressed within this population. This crisis hotline offers immediate support for veterans and their loved ones. 
  • National Resource Directory — This database offers employment and housing resources to support the recovery, rehabilitation, and reintegration of service members and their families.  
  • Veterans of Foreign Wars — This organization is the largest and oldest Veteran service group. They support the nation’s needy and disabled veterans and any widows or orphans of those who served. 

State Resources

Since veteran homelessness in California is so high, plenty of state-specific resources are available to those living on the streets, including the following.

  • California Department of Veteran Affairs — This department is a state-wide branch associated with VA, providing transition assistance, housing, healthcare, education, employment, and other crucial services. 
  • VA Northern California — Even more specifically, these housing services are available in Chico-Redding, Martinez, Oakland, and Sacramento. Access immediate food and shelter, including transition and permanent housing. VA Northern California also provides job training, financial support, addiction and mental health treatment, justice system navigation, and more. 

Local Resources

  • 211LA – Veteran Services — For those in Los Angeles, this portal allows veterans to search and access the personalized searches they need. 
  • Foundation for Women Warriors — This community is exclusively for military women in Southern California. This foundation helps these women realize their full potential and act on it, empowering them to grow. 
  • Wounded Warrior Project — This non-profit serves those living with a physical or mental injury related to war. 

Housing Resources for Veterans 

Housing assistance is crucial for many veterans, which is why the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and VA created a collaborative program. The HUD-VASH program provides rental assistance with VA case management and supportive services to target Veteran homelessness in California. In addition to permanent housing, veterans can access mental health treatment, health care, substance use counseling, and more. 

To find out more about this program and related programs, check out all VA housing programs

Additional resources include:

  • CAVSA — The California Association of Veteran Service Agencies (CAVSA) is a group of six non-profit veteran service providers working in partnership to address the needs of California’s veterans. It operates over 2,500 units of stabilization, transitional and permanent housing.
  • Homeward Bound of Marin — This provider offers homeless shelters and services to homeless families and individuals in Marin, California. It has a Veteran housing program, the first phase of a larger development plan. 
  • Berkeley Food & Housing Project — This organization started the Roads Home program to address veteran homelessness in California. Hotlines are available for Solano, Alameda, Contra Costa, Sacramento, San Joaquin, and Amador Counties.

California Food Bank Resources 

Despite the sacrifices Veterans make, a significant percentage of those who return home are food insecure. Data shows that 20% of households supported by Feeding America include a veteran or someone who served. These individuals have a roof over their heads. Homeless veterans deal with a lack of shelter and food. 

Many of the above housing resources also provide veterans with meals. For example, the Berkeley Food & Housing Project serves nutritious and delicious meals for those without a home and those who live in their housing units. Last year, the organization served over 63,000 meals, many of which fed veterans. 

The California Association of Food Banks is a leader in California’s anti-hunger movement. More than 240 farmers, packers, and distributors donate to the Farm to Family program each year — one of the largest food recovery programs in the country. While this organization does not provide food, it provides the support and resources to connect veterans with the services they need concerning food assistance. 

  • If you need immediate assistance, dial 2-1-1 to speak to someone 24 hours a day — they will help you find services near you. 
  • Seek out the services from a local food bank
  • CalFresh is a nutrition program that provides eligible individuals with a debit card that can be used at most grocery stores. 

Mental Health Resources for Veterans 

As of 2022, the United States has faced two decades of continuous war, raising concerns about the mental health of veterans and service members. Research suggests that between 14% and 16% of U.S. service members deployed to Afghanistan and Iraq have depression or PTSD. Other concerns include substance abuse, interpersonal violence, suicide, and traumatic brain injury (TBI). For those living on the street, these conditions may be exacerbated. 

The cycle surrounding diminishing mental health and homelessness among veterans is often fueled by substance use, unstable employment, and incarceration. However, this association is highly complex and usually requires individualized support. The issue is that most veterans, especially those who are homeless, don’t know where to turn. 

An ideal starting point is to reach out to VA programs. Locate the nearest VA location to seek help. The Veterans Crisis Line is also a crucial resource. To speak to someone, dial 988, then press 1. 

To find support, visit the VA mental health page. You can learn about VA treatment, VA benefits, and the local resources available. There are resources for specific types of Veterans, including women veterans, older veterans, LGBTQ veterans, and more. 

  • VA Northern California — VA Northern California health care operates a comprehensive behavioral health program, offering veteran-focused mental health care.
  • National Alliance on Mental Illness — This organization has a branch in California, offering local support for veterans and their family members. 
  • Courage to Call — This program is a veteran-run, peer-to-peer support program in San Diego County. It provides free, confidential services to reduce stress and improve overall mental health.

Additional Government Resources for Veterans in California 

Looking for more government resources related to veteran homelessness in California?

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