The general consensus among aid workers over the past ten years supports the idea that there a substantial, growing number of American people living out of their cars. TIME talks about living in your car as a “last rung of dignity and sanity above the despair of the streets.”
It is estimated by HomeAid America, a national non-profit provider of housing for the homeless, that up to 3.5 million Americans experience homelessness annually, and that over one million of them are children. While for a very small number of the population becoming homeless or choosing to live a transient existence is a calculated decision, for the vast majority of those who find themselves without a home it is the result of a series of tragic events that force them into poverty and a life on the streets.
There are steps that can be taken – and resources that can be used – to obtain housing, find independence, and maintain your dignity – and leave your car as simply a source of transportation. This guide has been designed to provide the information and comprehensive resources you need to put a plan in place to transition into a safe, affordable home. You will learn:
- How to obtain an address, driver’s license, and get your car straight
- Where to seek affordable insurance and health care
- How to find affordable food, clothing, and showers
- How to apply for jobs
- Single mothers and victims of abuse, learn about special resources that exist for you
- Veterans, learn about special programs that you can turn to
If you are reading this, you have likely already discovered a way to access this information. (Public libraries are your best bet for extended internet time and printing ability, so you can start to pursue what’s listed here.) Now, by using the resources available in this guide, you will be able to start brainstorming and effecting a plan to break the holding pattern on your life.
Part I: Obtain an Address and Get Your Vehicle Up to Speed
How to Obtain an Address
For individuals trying to apply for jobs, not having a physical address can be an immediate roadblock to getting a job interview. Even if you are living out of your car, you can obtain a physical address to meet your needs.
You will need a place where you can receive correspondence. Mailbox services are available and affordable to allow you to receive mail from all essential entities, such as employers, doctors, and even insurance companies. The United States Post Service (USPS) is the most commonly noted provider to whom you to pay a small annual fee and obtain a dedicated mailbox and personal, verifiable address in the form of a post office (P.O.) box.
This doesn’t suit all needs, since a mailing address is not necessarily the same as your residential address. Perhaps the most difficult challenge this presents is the issue of getting a driver’s license, which generally requires a residential address (or a physical address). Your best bet is to check with your local DMV, because each state has its own guidelines as to what’s acceptable and legal – and you want to always make sure you are following the law! Here are some ideas and tips to keep in mind and potentially inquire about:
- Some states offer a “no fixed address” option, though you will still need to verify your identity somehow so make sure you check what additional documentation is necessary and acceptable.
- In some states, you can use a mailbox address (NOT a P.O. Box) as your physical address. These present as a street address with a number, and can provide a workaround for homeless individuals or even those who travel extensively.
- Look into services and support for RV travelers. People who live out of their RVs face issues with mail-forwarding and residency.
- If you already have a state issued ID, some states will let you use that and a birth certificate as sufficient verification for a driver’s license.
- Some states will let you use a family member’s address as long as they accompany you to the DMV.
- Speak to a local homeless shelter. Many states allow homeless shelters to provide proof of address to their clients. You don’t necessarily have to spend the night there; homeless day shelters that will offer proof of address do exist, so you can find a solution that fits your needs. They often also offer mail forwarding services as well as other resources that might help you.
- Consider registering your car insurance to your mailing address, if possible, so you have a bill you can use to show your association to your address.
- Absolutely do not drive without a license. It’s just not worth it – you might get slammed with fines and suspensions that could have major, long-term, negative effects, especially when compounded with other troubles you might be facing. As much of a hassle as it might be for you to get your license, it is absolutely worth it. Additionally, many employers ask to see a valid driver’s license.
How to Get Your Vehicle In Order
One of the main reasons that people find themselves homeless is because they choose to pay for other necessities, such as food and medical care, instead of rent or a mortgage. If you need a vehicle to get to and from work every day, you may be one of the many Americans who prioritize purchasing a car over buying a home – after all, the cost of a car can be less than the monthly costs of renting a home. If you need a car to get you from point A to B, buying directly from the owner (such as via Craigslist) might be good, though you will forego a lot of the protections you can get from established sellers.
What we see more commonly with the homeless is the need to “legitimize” their car ownership. To ensure you have legal access to a vehicle you own, you will need to obtain auto insurance and register your vehicle (we covered getting your driver’s license earlier).
Obtain Auto Insurance
Auto insurance requires you to pay a monthly fee so that in the event of an accident or damage to your vehicle, all or a portion of the associated costs are covered by your policy. Not only does auto insurance offer financial protections, but auto insurance is also required by law in most states. Though tempting in the short-term, not getting your car covered by insurance is a bad idea in the long run, and will likely cost you more. To obtain an auto insurance policy, follow these steps:
- Determine the requirements of your home state. Some states require minimal levels of coverage that will impact your rate options.
- Understand the factors that impact rate. A wide variety of factors will affect what you pay for your auto insurance, including your age and driving experience, the number of miles you will be driving every year, and where you will be parking your car overnight.
- Obtain a copy of your driving record. Your past driving history may impact your auto insurance rates, especially if you have been involved in an accident in which you were at fault, or you have any driving-related criminal activity.
- Determine what coverage level you need. Beyond any minimal coverage levels required by your state, determine what type of coverage you will need, given your budget limitations. Understand that the more coverage you have, the higher your premium (the amount of money you pay per month), will likely be. On the other hand, a lower monthly premium may mean you will pay a higher deductible in the event of an accident or any damage, which might make more sense if you live in a city or area with difficult road conditions where accidents are more likely.
- Find low income insurance. There are government and non-government options that usually vary by state, but that might help you find the coverage you need for a premium that you can actually afford.
- Determine if you are eligible for a discount. Many auto insurance providers offer discounts. You may be able to obtain a discount for a safe driving record, completion of a defensive driving class, or for choosing a car with such safety equipment as anti-lock brakes or anti-theft equipment.
- Compile the necessary documentation. When you contact an auto insurance agency to begin the process of applying for coverage, you will need to be prepared with the following information:
- Your driver’s license.
- The make, model, year, and vehicle identification number (VIN) of the car you are insuring.
- The types of coverage limits you want
- A description of where you park your car overnight.
- Compare multiple offers. Request quotes for the same coverage limits from numerous auto insurers so that you can choose the carrier and policy that offers the most coverage for the most affordable rate.
Register Your Car
To help protect your auto investment, make sure you register it with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), Secretary of State (SOS), Department of Revenue (DOR), Motor Vehicle Division (MVD), or whichever entity manages the vehicle regulations in your state. Refer to this list to find the vehicle registration laws for your state.
To register your vehicle with the DMV, follow these steps:
- Ensure you have the necessary documentation. To register a vehicle, you will need to have:
- The title of the vehicle in your name
- Proof that the vehicle passed a safety inspection and emissions test
- Proof of auto insurance (again, see above)
- Completed vehicle registration forms required by your state
- The ability to pay any registration fees and/or associated municipal taxes, which you can usually estimate online at your state DMV’s site
Note: if your vehicle has a branded title, abandoned vehicle title, or a salvage title, your registration may be subject to additional fees.
- Find a DMV location. You will need to register your vehicle in your state. The cost and requirements for vehicle registration may vary slightly by state. If you have access to a computer and the Internet, search for your local DMV site (making sure it has the appropriate .gov ending – there are lots of fake sites out there!) for more information. Otherwise, stop by a DMV office near you.
- Use provided temporary license plates/tags. If you are presented with temporary license plates or tags, be sure to use them while you wait for your permanent materials to arrive. If you are found not reflecting any form of registration information on your vehicle, you may be subject to a fine.
Part II: Tend to Your Health – Find Affordable Options for Care
Whether your homelessness is episodic, transitional, or chronic, the stress associated with not having a home can be prolonged and contribute to long-term illness. In addition, if health-related factors have impacted your move out of your home, you may be in need of regular medical care. Even if a low-income status is a concern, there are options available to ensure you can obtain health insurance coverage and that you can seek affordable health care.
Struggling with mental health issues and/or substance abuse issues can add another obstacle to keep you from being able to hold a job, afford a home, and keep you stuck in many ways; they can complicate any existing conditions that you are already battling. You can get professional medical help to address these issues alongside any other medical care you seek. Mental illness remains the third biggest reason for homelessness, so you are not alone. The range of resources available varies widely according to where exactly you live.
- Look into Medicaid. If you are homeless due to a low-income status, you may be eligible for Medicaid, a jointly funded, Federal-State health insurance program for low-income Americans. You may qualify for Medicaid in your state if you meet specific income-based requirements.
- Regardless of state, the following situations will typically qualify an individual for Medicaid: low-income; pregnant women, infants, and children in low-income households; and living with a disability.
- Medicaid can help provide homeless individuals access to such health care services as substance abuse counseling and rehabilitation, mental health care, and treatment for chronic diseases.
- To apply for Medicaid in your home state, you must submit an application. Be prepared to provide validating documentation. The process of applying for Medicaid is lengthy and complicated. Consider working with a third-party to assist you with your application.
- Look into subsidized health care coverage through the Health Insurance Marketplace. If you do not qualify for Medicaid, you may still meet income-based requirements to obtain subsidized health coverage from the Health Insurance Marketplace established under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Such a subsidy will allow you to purchase a health care plan that fits your needs at an affordable cost, based on your annual income. These offerings vary widely, and so your best bet is to input your specific demographic information and see what is available for you.
- Do you qualify as a homeless/at-risk youth? Young people who find themselves without a home may be eligible for health care coverage under the ACA. The ACA expanded access in some states to Medicaid, a federal health insurance option for low-income Americans. Homeless youth may be eligible for Medicaid in their home state if they meet specific requirements.
- Do you have any minors in your care? Minors may also be eligible for health coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Young adults not eligible for Medicaid or CHIP with a household income between 100 and 400 percent of the federal poverty level may be eligible to purchase subsidized health coverage from the Health Insurance Marketplace created under the ACA.
- Check out free health care clinics. If you do not qualify for Medicaid, CHIP, or subsidized health coverage under the ACA, do not let your inability to obtain health coverage be a barrier to getting health care. Across the nation, free healthcare clinics and community health centers exist to help low income and homeless Americans receive treatment for their health care needs.
- Look into homeless shelters. Some shelters do provide mental health counseling, which usually comes as part of a multifaceted approach to helping you find stability. Meet with a counselor to explore your support options. Even if you are wary to stay overnight at a homeless shelter, day shelter options are available in most places.
- Look into the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, a membership organization that connects those in need with peers, specialists, and resources to eliminate homelessness through health care and housing.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – For homeless adults suffering from mental health and/or substance use disorders, SAMHSA supports programs that address homelessness and increase access to permanent housing. SAMHSA’s Projects for Assistance in Transition for Homeless (PATH) funds services for people with serious mental illness experiencing homelessness.
- Local Crisis Assessment Services – also known as Evaluation and Emergency Services – are local, government-subsidized programs that can assess and diagnose illness in individuals and generate referrals for the appropriate programs and services that can help.
- Alcoholics Anonymous is an oft-cited and free twelve-step support group to help people suffering from substance dependencies, particularly alcohol, work through their issues and find community. There can be some religious perspectives included in this program, and so you might want to keep that in mind.
- Seek out state-specific resources on mental health and disabilities.
Part III: Obtaining Basic Services While Homeless
Taking care of basic daily needs is difficult but remains essential even as you work on transitioning from homeless to fully financially sustainable.
No matter where you live, there are likely programs and services available that are providing food to low-income adults, families, and children in your community, such as:
- Emergency food programs like soup kitchens, food pantries, and faith-based service organizations are sources where individuals can go to get food. A common misconception is that all food banks also fall on this list, but they tend to act more as donation collection and distribution hubs.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in your state distributes food stamps pending your application approval. Any food for home consumption is eligible, although you cannot use SNAP to buy household items, pet food, or vitamins/medicines.
- The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) helps supplement diets of low-income individuals by providing emergency food as well as nutritional assistance.
- The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) provides supplemental food assistance to low-income elderly adults (>60 years of age) as well as pregnant women, breast-feeding women, new mothers for up to one year after birth, and children up until the age of six.
- The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) gives grants to states to provide coupons for seniors to redeem for foods at farmers’ markets, CSAs, and roadside stands.
You will need quality clothing both to protect you from the elements and to enable you to present a professional appearance when applying for jobs. You may be able to obtain clothing from:
- Salvation Army Clothing Stores as well as Goodwill Industries offer low-cost clothing, accessories, and items for around the home. Local clothing thrift stores, consignment shops, and other secondhand used clothing stores.
- Local charities and faith-based organizations (e.g. rescue missions) frequently organize clothing drives to collect clothes that they then distribute to the homeless. It’s worth getting in touch with them to learn about upcoming events.
Those who lack a home of their own do not just miss out on the safety and comfort of a place to sleep at night. They are challenged to find access to bathrooms, showers, and other personal hygiene services. You will feel more like yourself, stay healthy, and be better able to make the transition from living in your car to living in a house or apartment if you maintain a clean appearance and regularly bathe. If you are homeless, you may be able to seek out the following services to obtain a shower and other hygiene services:
- Homeless Shelters – With overnight and day options, these organizations are a source of temporary residence for homeless individuals or families, in addition to various support services ranging from mail collection through mental health counseling. Building a relationship with a homeless shelter is a great way to gain access to the resources you need and start pulling yourself out of hardship.
- Mobile shower units – Especially in larger metropolitan areas, non-profit organizations are being formed to specifically offer free shower services to those in need, such as Hope Thru Soap in the Atlanta, GA area, and Lava Mae in California.
- YMCAs – While you may need to invest in a monthly or annual membership to access services at a YMCA near you, this can give you access to a warm space and a clean shower at a much lower cost.
- Public parks and beaches – If you live near a public park or beach, it may offer public showers for free use or for a minimal per-use fee.
Depending on your situation, you may be able to find:
- Emergency shelters – most homeless shelters serve as emergency shelters holding limited numbers of people for short amounts of time
- Drop-in centers – these mostly serve individuals who are not ready to accept more long-term shelter solutions, but who are willing to accept some assistance and start to build relationships with counselors
- Permanent supportive housing – involves heavy supportive services usually geared to help those with disabilities or substance dependencies
- Transitional housing – used to bridge the gap as individuals seek permanent housing
- Affordable housing – low-cost rent and mortgage options are available, often with Section 8 vouchers, or in communities where homes and apartments are designed to be purchased at a reduced price
- Low-income housing – if you meet low-income requirements, you may qualify for designated low-income housing, which may include apartments, townhouses, and homes in your area.
- Rental assistance – depending on your income, you may qualify for rental assistance either in the form of a stipend or an arrangement in which payment is made directly to the landlord so that the rent you ultimately pay is reduced
The following organizations and housing programs also assist individuals and families:
- HUD’s Guide to Rental Assistance can help you find rental opportunities, public housing and vouchers to pay for them. Take time to browse the legal resources as well, since they walk you through your rights and help make sure you stay safe and fully leverage the opportunities before you.
- HUD’s State-by-State Guide to rental assistance, homeownership, and even paying for utilities can be accessed here and used in parallel to federal and private assistance.
- Find a HUD Grant Recipient in your area by using this search tool.
- Family Unification Program – This program helps low-income Americans to obtain a house or apartment in a safe area. It provides Housing Choice Vouchers to Public Housing Agencies (PHA) so that individuals either obtain low-cost, or no-cost housing.
- Social Serve – An online resource to help people find affordable housing.
- Habitat for Humanity – This organization builds and repairs homes for those in need, helping to provide safe, affordable housing.
- The United Way Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFS) – This program provides funding to human services agencies to help communities build, rebuild, and purchase housing for low-income Americans. You can then look up agencies in your area that receive this support.
- Housing and Community Facilities Program (HCFP) – These programs are designed to provide housing assistance to low-income individuals in rural areas.
Part IV: Put on a Suit and Apply for Jobs
Whether you are employed in a position with a salary that does not enable you to maintain the standard of living in your community, or you are temporarily unemployed and are looking to re-enter the labor market, applying for jobs will be a critical step in getting yourself back into a safe, secure home. Follow these steps to get out into the labor market and find a position that suits your skills and competencies.
- Present a clean, professional appearance. To be hired, you will need to be able to interview and arrive for work showered, shaved, with hair and teeth brushed. A clean appearance is not only a requirement of companies that want their employees to positively represent their brand, in some industries (such as the fast food service industry) it is a requirement of the Health Department to protect all workers and customers.
- Seek medical treatment. If a mental health challenge has been keeping you from maintaining stable employment, then it is time to obtain the help you need to move forward. As mentioned previously, there are a variety of public health services and low-cost or subsidized health insurance options available for those in need.
- Obtain a method of communication. When you apply for a job, any prospective employers will need to be able to communicate with you regularly, both during the interview process, and once you are hired.
- If you are homeless and unable to supply a landline, you will need to be prepared in advance with an alternate communication method.
- If you have an email address, you may be able to access email regularly from a public library, an Internet café if one exists in your area or a homeless shelter.
- If you have a friend, family member, or sponsor assisting you with getting back on your feet, you may be able to provide their phone number as long as they have a way of relaying messages to you.
- You may also choose to invest in a low-cost cell phone and cellular plan so that you have a method of communicating with employers or prospective employers. Use this instead of a burner phone so you have a consistent number over time; sometimes, it might take a while before you hear back, but prospective employers who keep you on file really do that.
- Search for available positions. If you have access to a computer and an Internet connection, you can begin your job search online.
- Online search tools such as com, Indeed.com, and CareerBuilder.com aggregate a wide variety of jobs in many industries and allow job seekers to search by region or city.
- If you do not have access to a computer, do not let that hinder your job search. You can always walk into stores, restaurants, and businesses in your area and ask for a job application. Remember that anywhere you work will need to be a place you can easily commute to every day.
- You may want to choose a place that is within walking distance to where you are temporarily living, or on an affordable bus or transit route if you have not yet purchased a registered car and auto insurance.
- Seek professional guidance. You may need a resume to apply for the type of job you desire. There are free or low-cost services available to assist those in need to create a resume, find job opportunities, network with prospective employers, obtain job training, and get hired. For example, Chrysalis in California is a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping homeless and low-income individuals with the resources and support needed to find and retain employment.
Those are some steps you can take, but here are some specific places you can turn to for more information and advice that will help you on your job hunt:
- Local shelters, coalitions, or missions for the homeless and other non-profits offer various employment services. Because of the range of experiences that they have handled, these are fantastic resources that understand your situation and can help you apply effectively.
- Search for “job readiness,” “employment services,” and “career workshops” in your area. Look specifically for organizations that work with the homeless or low-income individuals. The range of local offerings varies too widely to fit here.
- Search for “family services” in your area. Usually managed by government departments associated with social services, “family services” offices often offer some career counseling services, or can refer you to affordable ones. These offices usually offer free help with other financial tasks such as budgeting.
- Public libraries will often host free, local workshops for resume building, job-seeking, and other skills critical to securing employment.
- Take online classes that can help build out your resume by adding on new skills. Search for “free courses” on Google. Consider certifications if you can afford them (some may even offer financial aid).
- Heartland Alliance brief on practices recommended for employers, community-based organizations, and organizations devoted to serving the homeless. You can read this to set your own expectations for what you can reasonably expect.
- Job Corps provides free educational and vocational training for youths ages 16-24
Part V: Special Assistance for Single Mothers or Victims of Abuse
According to Greendoors.org, 71 percent of single-parent families are female-headed and they are among the poorest in the nation, rendering them highly at risk of becoming homeless. Another shocking statistic is that about 50% of the women receiving TANF benefits cite domestic violence as the primary reason for their poverty. Assistance to support these women and their families with housing, food, and even counseling is essential for everyone to survive and even thrive.
Here are some resources geared towards single mothers, young mothers, or victims of abuse, that you can use alone or in conjunction with the tips and resources listed above:
For even more local resources, we highly encourage you to dial 2-1-1, an often-overlooked, free way to get information about local services for everything from housing, food, transportation, and utilities help through family services and even career counseling. We highly recommend this solution for victims of domestic abuse, as the information offered is completely confidential and leaves less of a trail than your browsing history might.
- Section 8 Subsidized Housing Through HUD – Available through the Section 8 Voucher program, HUD provides vouchers to qualifying low-income individuals, helping you to reduce your rent and choose where you want to live.
- HUD also offers several programs and resources to support homeless women who are the victims of domestic violence.
- HUD low-rent apartments – Aside from their voucher program, HUD also provides funding directly to landlords in exchange for their offering reduced rent and housing to low-income families.
- State-sponsored housing programs for single mothers – Your state may offer a program similar to HUD’s subsidized housing program, providing an additional opportunity to find affordable housing in your area.
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) – Apply to this program and, if approved, get help paying your energy bills, this is a powerful program to keep your family healthy, particularly in the middle of a scorching summer or freezing winter.
- Vision House – One example of transitional housing geared to homeless single mothers and their children.
- The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) – This program provides support for supplemental food for pregnant women, up to one-year post-partum mothers, as well as infants and children at-risk for malnutrition.
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families – Each state runs it differently, but this federally-funded program provides families in crisis/need with financial assistance and support services.
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – Provides referrals for families in need to food banks, food pantries, and local churches collecting and administering food donations.
- National School Lunch Program – In more than 100,000 schools across the country, this program provides school-age children from low-income families with breakfast, lunch, and even snacks, either for free or at a reduced rate.
- Bridge of Hope – A national organization that aims to prevent homelessness for women and children by partnering with churches to help women find permanent housing, employment, and community/friendships.
- Women Against Abuse Safe at Home Program – Provides community-based housing support, relocation assistance, subsidies, and case management to help victims of domestic violence connect to local resources that can help them overcome the obstacles that might otherwise force them to return to their abuser.
- Head Start Programs – These target children up to age five, striving to foster school readiness by nourishing their educational development. Their settings vary from schools all the way through in-home services.
- Nurturing Network – Helps woman facing an unplanned pregnancy with housing, medical, legal assistance, and more.
- CoAbode Single Mothers House Sharing – A program that pairs up single mothers to raise their children together and find stable housing, lighter daily burdens, and emotional support.
- Child Care and Development Fund – This federal program is administered at the state level to low-income families, helping them pay for childcare when it is needed due to work or school related activities for children less than 13 years of age, or those incapable of self-care.
- Dress for Success – This group helps disadvantaged women put their best foot forward, find jobs and economic independence with professional attire and career coaching services.
- First Step Job Training Program – New-York-based program geared toward helping homeless/low-income women acquire the skills they need to find jobs that can actually make ends meet.
- The Assistance League – With local chapters that tailor their programming toward regional issues, the AL does have a thrift store (much like the Salvation Army and Goodwill) as well as offers scholarships for single parents to further their schooling (and improve their lives/job prospects).
- Jeannette Rankin Women’s Scholarship Fund – Aims to give low-income women aged 35 or older scholarships so that they can pursue education and improve their lives.
- Women’s Independence Scholarship Program (WISP) – This program provides financial support in the form of scholarships to domestic abuse survivors who are pursuing further education, to help empower them to realize independence.
Part VI: Special Assistance for Veterans
HUD estimates that nearly 40,000 U.S. veterans are homeless in America on any given night. Though the number of homeless veterans was in decline from 2010 to 2016, NPR reported an increase last year. Veterans are more susceptible to mental illness and substance abuse, which are factors widely recognized as increasing the likelihood of homelessness.
If you are a retired or former service member in need of housing support, there are special resources available to provide you with transitional, temporary, and permanent housing and support. Again, we recommend you use these in conjunction with the tips and resources listed above:
- HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) – A program managed by the S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) ad HUD that provides housing vouchers and support services to help homeless veterans and their families find permanent housing.
- Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program – A collaboration between state, local, and tribal governments to help provide transitional and short-term housing to homeless veterans.
- Enhanced-Use Lease (EUL) Program – A VA program that allows designated land and buildings to be leased to eligible private entities for approved supportive housing for homeless veterans.
- Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) – Open to very low-income veterans, this program provides case management and support services to prevent the imminent loss of a veteran’s home; or identify a new housing situation; or rapidly re-house veterans and their families who are homeless and at risk of remaining homeless.
- Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans (DCHV) – A program that provides shelter and residential care to veterans with multiple challenges, those suffering from an illness, or in need of rehabilitative care.
Mental Health and Substance Abuse
- State Veterans Affairs (VA) Offices can provide detailed information on local benefits and services, including mental health services, counseling, and alcohol and drug dependence rehabilitation, as well as work with you to make sure you can afford them.
- Vet Center Readjustment Program – Administered by the VA, this program provides readjustment counseling to both veterans and their families with the goal of smoothing out the transition back to civilian life. They even offer a call center where you can talk about your experiences with experienced veterans and/or family members of combat veterans, who can understand and relate to what you’re experiencing.
- Veteran Crisis Line – For veterans and their family/friends, this toll-free hotline connects the public with VA responders to provide 24/7 support for veterans in crisis.
- Real Warriors – An initiative focused on removing the stigma of pursuing mental health support services among military service members, veterans, and their loved ones.
- National Veterans Legal Services Program – This nonprofit works to make sure you are aware of and using all of the benefits to which you are entitled. Given the complexities and obstacles that can arise from mental health and substance abuse issues, this program can be a powerful resource when used in parallel with other services.
- There are three key programs run by the VA to assess homeless veterans in particular with employment. Your best bet is to locate your closest VA facility for more details.
- The Homeless Veteran Supported Employment Program (HVSEP) provides job search assistance and placement to both homeless veterans as well as those at risk.
- The Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) Program helps pair veterans with jobs that pay at least minimum wage.
- The Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program assists veterans with disabilities obtained in service to find and keep employment, even offering training and apprenticeships.
- National Coalition for Homeless Vets’ Employment Page – This page has a comprehensive list of resources – federal through private – all geared around providing job hunt support specifically for veterans.
- Military Skills Translator – Use this tool to help you build your resume and find jobs that fit the skills and jobs you performed during your service.
- Leverage a veterans’ career fair – There are quite a number of career fairs specifically organized to hire veterans, with recruiters well-versed in the various roles and duties of your service as well as the most common concerns and needs that veterans may have.
If circumstances in your life have created challenges to maintaining safe, affordable, housing, know that your dislocation does not have to be permanent. Organizations, services, and resources across the country are available to help you mitigate any factor creating a barrier to finding a safe home and can help you start over in a home you can call your own — forever.