When Secretary Shinseki came to VA nearly three years ago, one of his top priorities was the eradication of Veteran homelessness by 2015. VA has focused both on those already homeless and on preventative services which help Vets and their families before they face losing a home. The Secretary said it best many times: Even one Veteran on the street is one too many.
Fortunately, progress has been made toward that ambitious goal. Thanks to the hard work of community partners at every level—federal, state and local—the homeless Veteran population declined 12 percent in 2011. From the Annual Homeless Assessment Report:
67,495 Veterans were homeless in the United States on a single night in January 2011–a significant reduction from last year’s single night count of 76,329. Since 2009, working with over 4,000 community agencies, VA and HUD have successfully housed a cumulative total of 33,597 Veterans in permanent, supportive housing with dedicated case managers and access to high-quality VA health care.
Of course, this is great news. But we’re not slowing down our efforts. VA also announced on Tuesday additional funding for the Department’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF). The program will make $100 million in grants available to community partners in an effort to prevent 42,000 Veterans and their families from falling into homelessness. Counseling, training, education assistance, direct time-limited financial assistance, transportation, child care, rent, utilities, and other services aimed at prevention—as well as getting Vets and their families back into homes–will remain a focus. Last year, 22,000 people were helped through the program.
The problem of Veteran homelessness wasn’t created in a year, and the solutions to end it won’t come together in a year, either. A complex issue with many contributing factors can only be solved with prudent and effective resources used at every level. We’ve got a ways to go to zero, but with the numbers released today, we know we’re on the way.