Press Conference on FY 2011 HUD-VASH Funding
John Driscoll, NCHV President and CEO
I am honored to stand with this distinguished company in service to our nation’s most vulnerable heroes – her homeless veterans.
In releasing his first budget request for the Department of Veterans Affairs in 2008, President Obama spoke these words:
“And we provide new help for homeless veterans … and until we reach a day when not a single veteran sleeps on our nation’s streets, our work remains unfinished.”
I still tremble at the historic magnitude of that declaration … and am humbled by the progress this nation has made in the campaign to end veteran homelessness since that moment.
Many felt the announcement was too ambitious, that the goal was far beyond reach.
But that’s because they were not aware of the work that was already being done. The Departments of Veterans Affairs, Labor and HUD, in partnership with community organizations represented by NCHV, had reduced the number of homeless veterans on the streets by 40 percent over the previous four years; the number of service providers helping homeless veterans had tripled in the previous five years.
What is often missed in the budget discussions today is that Congress deserves much of the credit for that success – both the Senate and the House of Representatives … both Republicans and Democrats.
Significant, historic increases in aid for homeless veterans were championed by the administration of President George Bush. President Obama understood that the gains of the recent past were prologue to what is possible in the immediate future.
At the same time Congress increased funding for homeless veteran programs – despite the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression and war on two fronts – they demanded evidence of the effectiveness and efficiency of those programs, and demanded a high order of accountability, much like today.
The VA, Labor, HUD and NCHV organizations have responded by decreasing veteran homelessness by more than 60% since 2004 – from hundreds of thousands on the streets each night, to about 76,000 today. The number of chronically homeless veterans – those with serious mental illness and other disabilities – has been cut in half in just three years.
This is why the HUD VA-Supportive Housing Program – or HUD-VASH – is so important. This program is designed to provide access to housing for veterans who need long-term assistance, and the critical services they will need to remain housed.
HUD-VASH is a vital component of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness – which calls for an end to veteran homelessness by 2015. Creation of that plan was mandated by Congress in the Hearth Act last year – and it may well be one of the most historically significant domestic policy instruments of our generation.
HUD Secretary Sean Donovan has testified before the Senate that 60,000 HUD-VASH vouchers would virtually end chronic homelessness among veterans.
Research proves that HUD-VASH addresses the prime concern of the new Congress – the cost to taxpayers of placing chronically homeless veterans in supportive housing is roughly half of the cost of emergency medical and other public services for veterans who remain homeless and on the streets.
Right now there are tens of thousands of men and women who served in our nation’s military who need this long-term assistance. HUD-VASH is not a program being expanded in anticipation of future needs.
It is a program that is saving lives and restoring hope for veterans with serious mental illness and other disabilities, each and every day. Nearly 1,000 chronically homeless veterans are now being placed in housing each month.
By this summer, without the $75 million previously authorized for Fiscal Year 2011, nearly 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.
Because of Congressional leadership – both in the Senate and the House of Representatives – this nation has never been closer to that goal. On behalf of the veterans we all serve, we want to thank you for your service.