On December 11, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs held a hearing titled “Evaluating Federal and Community Efforts to Eliminate Veteran Homelessness.”
Chair Jeff Miller (R-FL) opened the hearing expressing “concerns about the increasingly insular focus the VA (Department of Veterans Affairs) is placing on permanent housing.” Mr. Miller believes that except for a few veterans, the purpose of veterans’ programs should be to provide “a bridge to an independent, purpose-filled life, not a permanent government-sponsored home.”
Steven Berg of the National Alliance to End Homelessness testified that the rate of homelessness among veterans has fallen dramatically because leadership at the federal level has put the right programs in place, including those that offer long-term housing and supports such as the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program. The HUD-VASH program assists homeless veterans by combining housing rental assistance vouchers from HUD with case management from the VA.
Representative Corrine Brown (D-FL) was heartened by the decrease in veteran homelessness. However, she pointed to the lack of adequate housing for veterans with families, preventing them from being able to stay together.
More than 60% of transitional housing programs funded by the VA do not accept children, or they restrict children by age and number, according to the Government Accountability Office. Veteran families who are homeless, especially those headed by single mothers, have fewer housing options offered by the VA. Traditional transitional housing for veterans is in dormitory settings or with rooms without locks, an artifact of an era when veterans in need were all men. As reported in NLIHC’s 2013 report, Housing Instability Among Our Nation’s Veterans, permanent, affordable housing is what this group of veterans needs.
John Downing of Soldier On discussed the difficulty in financing permanent affordable housing for veterans, saying that even after receiving state and federal grant money along with tax credits, he usually faces a shortfall in funds needed to complete housing projects. In one situation, a lack of tax credits led to a housing project being delayed for two to three years.
Jennifer Ho, a HUD senior advisor, also testified about HUD and the VA collaborating with local partnerships, including public housing agencies, to ensure the success of the HUD-VASH program and to identify gaps in housing availability. According to Ms. Ho, “As of September 2014, almost 52,000 veteran families are being assisted through HUD-VASH vouchers, and another 3,300 families have been issued vouchers and are searching for housing.”
Watch live streaming of the hearing at http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/56342694
NLIHC’s 2013 report, Housing Instability Among Our Nation’s Veterans, is at http://nlihc.org/sites/default/files/NLIHC-Veteran-Report-2013.pdf