National comparison of literally homeless male and female VA service users: entry characteristics, clinical needs, and service patterns

Womens Health Issues. Jan-Feb 2014;24(1):e29-35. doi: 10.1016/j.whi.2013.09.007. Epub 2013 Dec 15.


Background: Although there are growing numbers of homeless female U.S. veterans, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has traditionally served a predominantly male population; thus, it is important to examine differences between homeless female and male veterans in their service needs and the current provision of VA homeless services.

Methods: A national registry of 119,947 users of VA homeless services from 2011 to 2012 was used to 1) estimate the proportion of female veterans among VA homeless service users, 2) examine the proportion of VA homeless service users who are literally homeless by gender, and 3) report differences between female and male VA homeless service users who are literally homeless on sociodemographic and clinical characteristics, as well as on outreach, referral, and admission patterns for an array of specialized VA services.

Findings: Of VA homeless service users, 8% were female compared with 7% among all homeless veterans, 6% among all VA service users, and 7% among all veterans. Of female VA homeless service users, 54% were literally homeless, slightly fewer than the 59% of male VA homeless service users. Comparing literally homeless VA service users, females were younger, 21% more had dependent children, 8% more were diagnosed with non-military-related posttraumatic stress disorder, and 19% to 20% more were referred and admitted to VA's supported housing program than males.

Conclusions: Female veterans use VA homeless services at a rate similar to their use of general VA services and they have unique needs, especially for child care, which may require additional specialized resources.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Health Services Accessibility
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Homeless Persons / psychology
  • Homeless Persons / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Mental Health Services / organization & administration
  • Mental Health Services / statistics & numerical data*
  • Middle Aged
  • Public Housing / statistics & numerical data*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs / statistics & numerical data*
  • Veterans / psychology
  • Veterans / statistics & numerical data*