Congressional Letter to Restore New HUD-VASH Vouchers in FY 2011
Submitted to House and Senate leadership
March 28, 2011
The Honorable John A. Boehner
1011 Longworth House Office Building
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Speaker Boehner:
The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) is writing to express its support for the inclusion of $75 million for new permanent supportive housing vouchers for chronically homeless veterans in the full-year FY 2011 appropriations bill. As currently written, H.R. 1 would eliminate the next round of HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers, leaving approximately 10,000 homeless veterans, who need intensive supports, without housing.
These vouchers represent a collaboration between HUD and VA to help veterans with serious mental illness and other disabilities obtain and maintain housing. Under the program, VA provides case management and health services for veterans who receive HUD-VASH vouchers.
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan has testified before the U.S. Senate that 60,000 HUD-VASH vouchers are needed to end chronic homelessness among veterans. An additional 10,000 vouchers would bring us to the 40,000 voucher level, representing two-thirds of the number needed to reach this goal.
Recently, members of Congress have raised concern about the utilization of the 30,000 vouchers allocated since 2008, at a rate of approximately 10,000 per year. HUD and VA officials have verified that 29,000 – more than 95% – of these vouchers have been awarded to homeless veterans. The great majority of these veterans are now permanently housed, with fewer than 7,000 actively searching for housing with vouchers in hand.
Vince Kane, Director of VA’s National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans, said it generally takes up to four months for a veteran to be placed in housing after referral for case management under the program. Kane and Mark Johnston, HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs, confirmed the high utilization rate of HUD-VASH vouchers. At the current rate, nearly 1,000 chronically homeless veterans are being housed each month.
NCHV understands this nation’s call to cut government spending; the HUD-VASH Program is consistent with that goal. Research indicates the cost of providing supportive housing to chronically homeless individuals and families is roughly half the cost incurred by emergency medical facilities, shelters, public assistance organizations and law enforcement agencies to assist people without housing.
The HUD-VASH Program is a vital component of the congressionally mandated Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, which calls for an end to veteran homelessness by 2015. The necessary build-out of the program to 60,000 vouchers, at 10,000 per year, would ensure an end to chronic veteran homelessness by that deadline. The lease-up rate of nearly 1,000 vouchers per month justifies the FY 2011 allocation.
The progress of VA, DOL, HUD and other federal agencies in reducing homelessness among veterans during the last decade has been made possible by the commendable bipartisan leadership of Congress. HUD-VASH has reduced the number of chronically homeless veterans by about 50% in just the last three years.
By this summer, without an additional $75 million for HUD-VASH in FY 2011, more than 10,000 of these veterans and their families who could have been helped will remain homeless. NCHV believes that is not an acceptable outcome for a Congress that has given so much – in leadership and resources – in the campaign to end veteran homelessness.
We strongly urge members of the House of Representatives and Senate to stand by this nation’s homeless heroes in their greatest hour of need, and restore the $75 million for HUD-VASH in the final FY 2011 appropriations bill.
President and CEO
National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
Vice President of Federal Policy
Local Initiatives Support Corporation
Vice President of Supportive Housing Acquisitions
National Equity Fund