If you had asked me ten years ago whether I thought we could end veteran homelessness in a few years, I may have been skeptical. You may have been skeptical when you saw the Administration’s bold goal to end veterans homelessness by 2015. Now, however, I feel differently. So should you. With the progress we have made, the number of veterans we have housed, the resources we have received, and the incredible partnership we have built with our colleagues at the VA, I actually think reaching that goal is within our grasp. Between 2010 and 2012, we saw an 18% decline in the number of homeless veterans, and we expect that we will see further decline in the 2013 PIT data.
We all know that ending veterans homelessness requires intense collaboration at the national, state, and local levels. HUD (including multiple offices within HUD) works closely with our partners — the VA and the USICH — through an innovative relationship we call Solving Veterans Homelessness as One. Even though each agency has a very different operational and program structure, we have decided that on the issue of veterans homelessness, we would work around those differences to make collaborative decisions and recommendations to our leadership.
This reaches from the staff level all the way to the top — Secretary Shinseki and Secretary Donovan meet with us to discuss our progress and what we see as barriers to even better progress.
This progress we have made is significant but we need to do more. Much more. I am asking that CoCs continue to search for resources and make investments in Veteran-centric housing and health programs, adopt evidence-based best practices such as Housing First, and collaborate across sectors to ensure that our nation’s Veterans who do become homeless become housed as quickly as possible. Specifically, I am advocating two immediate actions:
HUD-VASH and VA Resources. CoCs should be collaborating closely with their local PHAs and VAMCs to identify and prioritize VA eligible chronically homeless Veterans for HUD-VASH.
HUD Homeless Resources. Some Veterans are ineligible for VA services due to their discharge status or because they do not meet the minimum duty requirements. CoCs and homeless service providers must collaborate with the local VAMCs to identify and prioritize for HUD-funded programs for Veterans that are ineligible for VA services.