Yesterday, the Senate Committee on Veterans Affairs held a hearing called, “Ending Homelessness Among Veterans: VA’s Progress on its 5 Year Plan.” The hearing examined the progress the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has made on its plan to end homelessness among veterans by 2015. Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) took the opportunity to highlight the challenges facing female veterans in particular, who are a growing subpopulation among homeless veterans.
The hearing included testimony from veterans on their own experiences transitioning into civilian life, as well as testimony from VA officials discussing the various challenges and opportunities that are likely to arise as we move forward to end veteran homelessness.
In recent years, veteran homelessness has become a focal point for policymakers in the broader fight to prevent and end homelessness in America. In response, we’ve seen increased resources for homeless veteran programs, increased interagency collaboration and involvement from regional VA offices and VA medical centers, and widespread implementation of proven practices, such as permanent supportive housing supported by the joint Department of Housing and Urban Development –VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers.
As a result, we’ve seen real progress in reducing veteran homelessness!
In February, the President included $1.35 billion in funding for homeless veteran programs in his Budget Proposal for fiscal year 2013 –a remarkable 33 percent increase! While his proposal is just a suggestion (Congress will need to make a final decision), there’s been significant movement around providing increased funding for veterans programs in Congress, particularly HUD-VASH vouchers.
Just this week, there are two Dear Colleague letters being circulated, one in the House and one in the Senate, in support of providing robust funding for HUD-VASH vouchers. The House letter closes today, but it’s already received approximately 45 signatures – an impressive feat in this difficult funding environment.
There’s been significant progress, but we still need your help! We need to make sure that as many senators as possible sign on to the Dear Colleague letter being circulated by Senators Jack Reed (D – RI), Olympia Snowe (R – ME), and Charles Schumer (D – NY) in support of robust funding for HUD-VASH and for HUD’s McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Grants, which served more than 12,000 homeless veterans in 2010.
Reach out to your senators’ offices by March 20 and encourage them to sign on! On March 20, the letter will be sent to the leaders of the Appropriations Committee, who are making the ultimate decisions on funding levels for programs like HUD-VASH vouchers. The more support from they see for funding for homeless veteran programs from their colleagues, the more likely they are to provide increased resources.