Often when we think of homeless veterans, the image that comes to mind is that of an older man, likely of the Vietnam generation, living on the streets. In other words, we tend to associate homeless veterans with chronically homeless people. For this group of people, we know that one of the best interventions to end their homelessness and to prevent future episodes is the joint Departments of Housing and Urban Development – Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) voucher program. Permanent supportive housing, we know, is solution to chronic homelessness; housing, with services and case management through VA, is ending chronic homelessness among veterans one unit at a time.
As such, even in this difficult funding environment, Congress is likely to provide $75 million for approximately 11,000 new vouchers this year.
This is fantastic news and it is helping to end veterans homelessness, but unfortunately, our homeless veterans don’t always meet that image we have in our head. Instead, many are increasingly younger, veterans not only of the Gulf War, but our current conflicts as well. Larger and larger portions of the homeless vet population are females, often with young children.
So how do we serve homeless veterans that may not fit into the definition we have in our heads? VA is responding to the changing face of our veterans with programs like the Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) program, which provides services to families residing in transitional or permanent supportive housing. But again, this program only targets a specific population. What program will serve the young woman who doesn’t consider herself a veteran because she never saw combat? Or the young man who doesn’t know enough about PTSD to connect his symptoms of fear and depression with his experiences in theater?
HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants have been serving the homeless population, including veterans, families, chronically homeless individuals, and youth with a variety of interventions, including permanent supportive housing, rapid re-housing, and others. It has proven successful in reducing the number of people experiencing homelessness and is often the program that serves our veterans, whether those individuals identify as such or have any formal connection to VA services.
While many veterans programs are continuing to receive robust and increased funding, HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs are not. McKinney needs an increase to meet the rising need of people experiencing homelessness in this difficult economic climate to serve our veterans, young and old, male and female, and everyone else who may be at risk of or experiencing homelessness – our friends, our neighbors, and fellow Americans.
With Veterans Day just around the corner, please take a moment to consider helping our less fortunate heroes.
The House is currently circulating a sign-on letter encouraging appropriators to provide increased funding for HUD’s McKinney-Vento programs. Some of this extra funding will inevitably serve those who served our country. Please call your representatives and ask them to sign on to the Hastings/Moore/Johnson McKinney sign-on letter TODAY!