The number of homeless veterans dropped 7 percent between January 2011 and January 2012, and administration officials say that news shows Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki’s goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015 is on track.
“This report continues a trend that clearly indicates we are on the right track in the fight to end homelessness among veterans,” Shinseki said in a statement Monday. The latest published findings for the Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress show that on a single night’s count in January 2012 there were 62,619 homeless vets on the country’s streets.
At the same time the VA says it will budget $300 million next year for community programs for ending veteran homelessness..
The latest drop follows a 12 percent reduction in veteran homelessness the year before. Overall, officials said, homelessness among the nation’s vets is down 17 percent from 2009, when Shinseki became VA secretary and vowed to end the problem by 2015.
The VA’s move to get homeless vets off the streets works in conjunction with VA and Housing and Urban Development programs to ensure low-income and impoverished veterans and their families do not become homeless.
Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, issued a statement praising the VA and joint VA-HUD programs, which provide community-based grants and housing vouchers to veterans and their families. These programs include the VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families program and the VA-HUD Supportive Housing program.
But Murray said she continues to see data indicating more families in America are becoming homeless.
“I am grateful for the progress we have seen, because these [veterans] programs have been working,” she said. “However, I am deeply concerned about the data indicating an increase in homeless families. I firmly believe the success of our nation’s families and the future of our economy is rooted in the investments we make in basic necessities like education and housing.”
The VA also announced on Monday it would be making available about $300 million in its community SSVF grants for 2013, which it expects to serve approximately 70,000 veterans and family members. The deadline for applying to program is Feb. 1.
VA officials estimate the community grants provided help to about 21,500 vets and family members through September 2012, including more than 8,800 children. The grants enable community organizations to provide a range of supportive services to very low-income veteran families living in or transitioning to permanent housing, officials said.
The services include case management, legal assistance, financial counseling, transportation, child care, rent, utilities and other services aimed at preventing homelessness.