By Debbie Gregory.
Officials estimate that on a single night in January, 2012, more than 62,000 veterans spent the night on the street, homeless.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have joined forces on a program that hopes to bring at least 9,000 of those men and women in from the cold.
Public housing agencies in major cities across the country, including Seattle, Phoenix, Chicago and New York, will split $60 million worth of rental assistance vouchers for their homeless veteran populations.
Officials said the program, officially titled HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) will give veterans living on the street a chance to move into public housing and receive clinical services at nearby VA medical centers. Since so many homeless veterans also suffer from long-term health problems, officials hope the program will tackle two issues at once. Every veteran who receives a voucher will also be assigned a case manager who will follow the veteran’s progress and insure that they are receiving referrals for medical treatment.
The program has existed since 2008, and to date, has provided housing for 42,000 veterans. Government reports show that the number of homeless veterans across the nation has dropped by 17.2 percent since 2009. HUD and VA officials hope to build on that progress by increasing programs and funding. The additional $60 million in spending for the HUD-VASH is part of a larger effort to end veteran homelessness by 2015, a goal President Barack Obama and VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki announced in 2009. In fiscal year 2013, the VA will spend $1.4 billion in specialized homeless programs, and an additional $4.4 billion in health care costs for homeless veterans.
A 2012 report by the VA Office of Inspector General found that the veterans who were more likely to become homeless were younger, had recently served in Iraq or Afghanistan, had experienced military sexual trauma, and had mental or substance abuse disorders or a traumatic brain injury, among other risk factors. VA officials said often veterans experience additional challenges with substance abuse or mental health issues because of the trauma they experienced on the battlefield. Officials have also said the VA is committed to meeting the needs of every veteran, to include health care, housing assistance, job training and education.