Veterans Day 2013 comes on the heels of an encouraging story: Jim Wolf recently sat down for what was probably the most transformative haircut of his life. In truth, it was more than a haircut, or a shave, or a new suit. As a homeless veteran of the U.S. Army, Wolf is currently overcoming an alcohol addiction. But through various lifelines, he has turned the first corner toward recovery and secured temporary housing, making his story one of inspiration for the near 63,000 veterans that go homeless each night.

The struggle in the U.S. for veterans to assimilate back into civilian life often begins overseas, where the constant terrors of war lead to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and substance abuse problems. These ailments can have alienating effects on friends and family members, whose support is critical for helping vets to reintegrate. Coupled with a shortage of affordable housing, health care, and job opportunities that pay a livable wage, the climb back to normalcy is often an exhausting one, both mentally and physically.

If the battle for vets is an uphill one, it is becoming less steep as time passes. According to a 2012 report from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), homelessness among veterans declined seven percent in the previous year.

“This report continues a trend that clearly indicates we are on the right track in the fight to end homelessness among veterans,” said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki in a press release. “While this is encouraging news, we have more work to do and will not be satisfied until no veteran has to sleep on the street.”

Since 2009, veteran homelessness has fallen 17.2 percent. On a single night in January, an estimated 62,219 veterans spent the night homeless.

As part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the agency responsible for maintaining and supporting veterans’ transition back into civilian life, the HUD allocated nearly 38,000 “Housing Choice” vouchers nationwide, which allow veterans to pay a subsidized monthly rent to their landlord. In addition, the VA is responsible for offering vets a lifeline when it comes to stabilizing their mental health, by providing at-risk vets the chance to speak with a trained VA responder over the phone.

“Veterans need a coordinated effort that provides secure housing, nutritional meals, basic physical health care, substance abuse care and aftercare, mental health counseling, personal development, and empowerment,” according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV). “Additionally, veterans need job assessment, training, and placement assistance.”

As vets often fall victim to continued substance abuse through deficient social support, the NCHV advises community members to uplift local veterans in order to help them thrive in a positive environment — one that tells them the future is promising, not more of the same.

“Government money, while important, is limited, and available services are often at capacity. It is critical, therefore, that community groups reach out to help provide the support, resources, and opportunities that most Americans take for granted: housing, employment, and health care,” the NCHV says. “Veterans who participate in collaborative programs are afforded more services and have higher chances of becoming tax-paying, productive citizens again.”

As for Jim Wolf, the organization Dégagé Ministries has included the Army vet as one of its 500 individuals who will receive respite from the harsh conditions of homeless life. The organization hopes to raise $30,000 by Veterans Day 2014. It has already raised $20,597 of that goal.