The number of homeless veterans dropped below 50,000 last year, in the fourth consecutive year of decreases since White House officials refocused efforts on getting that population into stable housing. Data from HUD’s annual point-in-time count of homeless Americans — conducted each January — showed 49,933 veterans living on the street in 2014. That’s down 13.8% (almost 8,000 individuals) since the 2013 count and 33.3% lower (almost 25,000 vets) since 2010.
Michelle Obama, HUD and the VA recently challenged mayors to commit to ending Veteran homelessness in their cities by 2015. So far, more than 95 mayors and governors in 46 states have accepted.
HUD Secretary Julián Castro said:
In just a few years, we have made incredible progress reducing homelessness among veterans, but we have more work to do.
However, the latest numbers also show the difficulty of completely ending the
problem. Despite focused efforts and increased funding for veterans assistance
projects, officials need to double their progress from the past five years
in order to reach that 2015 goal.
Housing advocates have praised HUD, VA and the Interagency Council on Homelessness for their efforts working with outside groups in recent years, noting that federal voucher programs and the “housing first” approach have helped quickly move veterans off the streets and into stable shelter. The VA Supportive Housing voucher program alone has served more than 74,000 veterans since 2008, providing direct funding to community groups which can assist individuals with immediate needs.
The White House just announced a new partnership with TriWest Healthcare Alliance to connect women veterans facing homelessness to employment and benefits services. Pilot programs will launch later this year in Seattle, Phoenix, San Francisco, Los Angeles and Honolulu. About 8 percent of the homeless veteran population (roughly 4,000) are women veterans who often face extra challenges in affording housing due to child care issues, dealing with the psychological effects of sexual trauma and gaps in health care offerings.
The VA is currently taking steps to aid homeless female Veterans. These include the:
- Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program (SSVF)
- “Housing Choice” Voucher
- Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program
- Women Veterans Health Care Program
- VA Mental Health for Women Veterans
SSVF awards grants to private nonprofit organizations and consumer cooperatives who will provide supportive services to very low income Veterans and their families residing in or transitioning to permanent housing. The grantees will provide a range of supportive services designed to promote housing stability. SSVF grants are released throughout the year.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and VA Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH) partner to provide permanent, supportive housing and treatment services for homeless Veterans. To date, HUD has allocated more than 74,000 Housing Choice vouchers across the country, which allows Veterans and their families to live in market rate rental housing while VA provides case management services. A housing subsidy is paid to the landlord directly by the local public housing authority on behalf of the participating Veteran. The Veteran then pays the difference between the actual rent charged by the landlord and the amount subsidized by the program. The case management services facilitate the attainment of the Veteran’s recovery goals. The HUD-VASH Program is for the most vulnerable Veterans, and provides special services for women Veterans, those recently returning from combat zones, and Veterans with disabilities.
The Grant and Per Diem Program funds community-based agencies providing transitional housing or service centers for homeless Veterans. Through the program, each year (as funding is available) VA offers grants that may fund up to 65 percent of the project for the construction, acquisition, or renovation of facilities or to purchase van(s) to provide outreach and services to homeless Veterans.
Women Veterans Health Care Program – Since 1988, the Women Veterans Health Care program has provided focused care for women Veterans in a safe environment that aims to raise the standard of women’s health care. It focuses on primary care, reproductive health, and other health issues unique to women. Women Veterans need not worry about their specific health issues not being accommodated by VA.
VA Mental Health for Women Veterans – VA recognizes that women Veterans experience their military service in different ways than men and also deal with unique mental health conditions. Because of this, VA provides specialized services to help women work through conditions such as PTSD or Military Sexual Trauma.