VA: Plan to End Veteran Homelessness 'On Track'

The number of homeless veterans dropped 7 percent between January 2011 and January 2012, the VA says, an indication that plans to end veteran homelessness by 2015 are on track.

The Department of Veterans Affairs says its 2010-announced plan to end homelessness among the country's veterans by the end of 2015 is on track, with "significant" progress anticipated through 2014, yet 12 percent of all homeless adults in America are veterans.

Since 2010, when VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced the plan, veteran homelessness had dropped 24 percent, according to the VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which released the latest figures on Thursday in the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress.

Official figures put that in real numbers -- a drop of nearly 18,500, leaving slightly less than 58,000 still homeless as of January 2013, when the last annual count was made. That kind of drop over nearly four years would seem to indicate the plan will fall short of goal -- with little more than 24 months remaining to 2016.

But HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, talking with reporters in a conference call on Thursday afternoon, said "we are exactly where we hoped to be with veterans this year."

"The reason we are right on track for veterans is that one of the things the President called for was an increase in resources for veterans," he said. "We have won those increases in resources. Those significant increases really are going into effect during this year and will be fully evident next year ... We expect an acceleration of the reduction over this year and next year."

The overnight "point-in-time" count made in January 2013 showed the number of homeless veterans had dropped about 4,770 from the year before, or about 8 percent.

In a statement, the VA pointed out that overall homelessness shrunk by just 4 percent in 2012, just half the "robust decline" among veterans.

"While this trend is encouraging news, we know that there is more work to do," VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said in the statement. "The results in the latest report are a credit to the effort given by our dedicated staff, and our federal, state, and community partners who are committed to ending Veterans' homelessness."

The VA spent more than $1 billion on programs to reduce homelessness among veterans and their families this year. These included some $70 million in HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing grants, which combines rental assistance from HUD with VA case management and clinical services, about $300 million in grants to community agencies that help approximately 120,000 vets and their families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless.

The VA just this month awarded nearly $9 million in grants for 164 projects to buy vans for homeless providers and to rehabilitate housing, and another $5 million in grants for 25 community-based projects to improve services for veterans.

The latest HUD report reveals:

*7.7 percent of homeless vets are women

*States with the largest numbers of homeless veterans in 2012 were California (15,179); Florida (5,505); and New York (4,659). The three states together accounted for 44 percent of all homeless veterans in the U.S.

*Minnesota and New Jersey have the lowest rates of homeless vets (7 percent in both states)

*Nationally, 12 percent of all homeless adults are veterans, though some vets represent a larger portion of the homeless in some states. In Kansas and Montana more than 1 in 5 homeless adults are veterans

*States with the highest rates of unsheltered veterans are California (68 percent), Montana (62 percent), Hawaii (58 percent) and Florida (58 percent)

*Rhode Island, Delaware, Massachusetts and Iowa are the states with the lowest rates of unsheltered veterans; all are under 5 percent

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Homeless Veterans Department of Veteran Affairs Bryant Jordan
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