The National Alliance to End Homelessness held a briefing for Hill staff on two recent reports regarding veterans’ housing needs, Housing Instability Among Our Nation’s Veterans by NLIHC and Rental Assistance Helps More than 300,000 Veterans Afford Homes, but Large Unmet Needs Remain by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (see Memo, 11/8/2013). Gerard Thomas, a U.S. Army veteran who was homeless for 30 years and now has stable home because of assistance he receives from the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing voucher program, was a highlight of the briefing’s panel.
Nan Roman, president of NAEH, emceed the event, giving an overview of veteran homelessness and the success of Congress and the Administration’s support for the HUD-VASH program and also saying that affordable housing is a need that each currently homeless veteran has. Ms. Roman highlighted NAEH’s “Never Another Homeless Veteran” two-year campaign, which it launched in November, to leverage public support to end veteran homelessness.
Linda Couch, senior vice president at NLIHC, reviewed key findings from NLIHC’s Housing Instability report. First, 70% of extremely low income veterans pay more than half of their incomes for housing, putting them at increased likelihood of becoming homeless. Second, certain subpopulations of veterans are faring worse than others when it comes to high housing cost burdens. These subpopulations, new veterans, veterans with high disability ratings, veteran households with children headed by single women, and minority veterans, are also precisely the veterans whose ranks are growing.
Will Fischer, senior policy analyst at CBPP, reviewed key aspects of the CBPP Rental Assistance report, including that more than 300,000 veterans are currently assisted by HUD’s rental assistance programs, more than half of them elderly veterans. Mr. Fischer also made clear what’s at stake for veterans’ housing assistance in the FY14 HUD appropriations bill (see related article). For example, Mr. Fischer said that flat funding for the voucher program in FY14 could result in 8,000 to 12,000 fewer veterans receiving assistance by the end of 2014.
Mr. Thomas, a U.S. Army veteran who served in Vietnam, told those assembled that after 30 years of being homeless, he found Pathways to Housing DC, which helped him get a HUD-VASH voucher. Within two weeks, he had an apartment, which “really turned things around. Nothing beats indoor plumbing,” Mr. Gerard said. He said that when he first returned from Vietnam, he “had it all,” a wife, a job, a home.” Things fell apart for Mr. Gerard and he found there was no support for him. ” Coming back to the civilian world is a whole different ball game,” Mr. Gerard said. “We are supposed to be a civilized society,” Mr. Gerard said.
Ms. Roman closed by describing policy recommendations that will make a difference, including sufficient FY14 funding, funding for the National Housing Trust Fund, creating a Renter Tax Credit, and, following the recommendation of the Bipartisan Policy Center’s housing commission report, scaling up housing assistance for all households with incomes below 30% of area median.
Learn more on NAEH’s Never Another Homeless Veteran campaign at: http://www.neveranotherhomelessveteran.org/
Read NLIHC’s Housing Instability Among Our Nation’s Veterans report at: http://nlihc.org/veterans
Read CBPP’s Rental Assistance Helps More than 300,000 Veterans Afford Homes, but Large Unmet Needs Remain report at: http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=4045
Read the BPC Housing Commission’s report at: http://bit.ly/1h99hxy