With 47,000 homeless veterans, 16,000 unsheltered homeless veterans, and 8,000 to 11,000 additional shelter and housing beds dedicated to veterans needed to shelter every homeless veteran, additional funding is needed for the veteran programs that work to prevent and end homelessness for veterans and their families.
Under the auspices of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness’s goal to end veteran homelessness in 2015, the nation has effectively ended veteran homelessness in several communities and in the states of Connecticut and Virginia, yet the job is not finished. As of the 2015 Point-in-Time Count and as the table below shows, homeless veterans still reside in every state in the nation and in 97% of the nation’s continuum of cares (CoCs), unsheltered homeless veterans are living in every state and in 83% of the nation’s CoCs, and additional beds dedicated to veterans are needed in 36 to 39 or about three-fourths of the states and in 184 to 227 or about half of the CoCs.
Veterans experience homelessness for many of the same reasons as other people, including personal and economic difficulties and lack of affordable housing, but exposure to combat and repeated deployments may also contribute to homelessness. Many veterans have physical injuries and suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury, and other trauma that may make it difficult for them to build or maintain relationships, control impulses, and obtain employment.
To prevent and end homelessness among veterans, HUD, VA, veterans’ organizations, communities, and other advocates have set up programs to use Housing First principles, provide permanent supportive housing for the most vulnerable veterans and those experiencing chronic homelessness, and target rapid rehousing for veterans and veteran families who can benefit from shorter-term support. As part of this framework, the HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program provides housing vouchers with comprehensive VA case management and supportive services for veterans and their families, the Grant & Per Diem (GPD) program provides rapid rehousing and transition in place housing for veterans sand their families, and the Supportive Services for Veterans and Families (SSVF) program provides rapid rehousing and supportive services for veterans and their families.
In setting HUD’s appropriations for fiscal year 2017, the agency showed foresight in proposing $7 million for rental assistance for Tribal HUD-VASH to serve Native American veterans that are homeless or at-risk of homelessness living on or near a reservation or other Indian areas and the Senate appropriations committee appropriately restored $50 million in additional funding for the HUD-VASH program to the HUD appropriations bill. This funding will provide 6,000 new HUD-VASH vouchers for veterans and their families.
In determining the VA appropriations for the upcoming fiscal year, the agency requested a decrease of $2 million from the FY2015 actual and an increase of $41 million from the current FY2016 estimate for the GPD program bringing the total to $216 million and requested funding equal to the FY2015 actual and current FY2016 estimate for the SSVF program. The House appropriations committee has passed a VA appropriations bill that contains the VA’s requested $216 million for the GPD program and $300 million for the SSVF program. The Senate appropriations committee has allocated $226 million for the GPD program and $320 million for the SSVF program.
To achieve and sustain the goal of preventing and ending veteran homelessness, the Senate should pass the HUD appropriations bill with the $7 million for the Tribal HUD-VASH pilot and $50 million for HUD-VASH vouchers and should pass the VA appropriations bill with the $320 million for the SSVF program and the $226 million for the GPD program as it considers the HUD and VA bill language this week. With this funding, the programs focused on preventing and ending veteran homelessness would receive a total boost of about $85 million compared to the FY2015 actual level to reduce the number of homeless veterans and unsheltered homeless veterans across the country and also reduce the number of homeless individuals and families without shelter.