This Memorial Day we will take pause from our busy lives to remember members of our armed forces who have fallen in service to our country. We will give thanks for all that we have due to their sacrifice.
Yet we must also remember those who are still with us. We must remember them even when they fall on hard times. It is a dishonor to their fallen comrades to let our veterans without homes.
It is an unfortunate reality that veterans tend to experience homelessness at higher rates than the general population. But this Memorial Day, we can celebrate some good news— homelessness among veterans fell by 23% from 2009 to 2013.
Research suggests that federal low-income rental assistance significantly contributed to this reduction. In March 2013, rental assistance helped 339,000 poor or near-poor veterans move into permanent affordable homes in March 2013. Nearly 300,000 of these veterans were housed through mainstream rental assistance programs, not specifically targeted for veterans.
Most of these veterans receive housing through the federally funded U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs: Housing Choice Vouchers program. The remaining veterans receive assistance through the HUD-VASH program, which combines Housing Choice Vouchers with supportive services through the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) to serve homeless veterans, especially those who are chronically homeless.
Congress is currently considering future funding levels for these critical housing programs in their 2015 Transportation-HUD appropriations bills. Although we commend the House Appropriations Committee for including funding for 10,000 new HUD-VASH vouchers for homeless veterans, their bill provides inadequate funding to the Housing Choice Voucher program that help a large share of the veterans receiving rental assistance.
The Senate has not yet acted on its 2015 HUD funding bill. There is still time to commit significant resources to all core rental assistance programs, which, together, help over 300,000 veterans afford safe, decent, and stable housing.
This Memorial Day, as we pay tribute to our fallen heroes, let’s not forget that the heroes that are still with us sometimes need a helping hand.