Recommendations for Homeless Veteran Programs: President's FY 2013 Budget
In November 2009, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki announced his department’s plan to end homelessness among veterans within five years, i.e. by 2015. The plan’s flexibility is a result of VA’s recognition that there is no top-down solution to ending veteran homelessness— crucial intervention and rehabilitation must occur on the local level. This is why the department has increased its investment in grant programs for community partners and tasked every VA medical center with creating its own “Five-Year Plan,” among other initiatives.
Number of homeless veterans
VA and HUD’s most recent veteran-specific supplemental report to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) showed a marginal increase in the number of homeless veterans on a given night: The official count is now 76,329 (January 2010 point-in-time count), up from 75,609 (January 2009 PIT). This higher number is attributable, in part, to enhanced collaboration between HUD and VA, including greater participation by VA homeless veteran programs in PIT counts.
“I’ve never been able to solve a problem I couldn’t see,” Secretary Shinseki told attendees at the 2011 NCHV Annual Conference. By pinning down the full scale of veteran homelessness, the federal government has put itself in position to properly resource its efforts to end it.
If enacted, VA’s proposed FY 2012 budget would make a historic investment in homeless veterans programs, including $224 million for the Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program, roughly $100 million for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program, and an additional $50 million for HUD-VA Supportive Housing (VASH) case management.
HUD’s proposed FY 2012 budget, meanwhile, includes $75 million for 11,000 new VASH vouchers, targeted to chronically homeless veterans. This would bring the total number of vouchers to about 48,500. Secretaries Donovan and Shinseki have both verified that 60,000 vouchers are needed to end chronic veteran homelessness.
As of Nov. 4, 2011, Congress has yet to send an FY 2012 appropriations bill to the president’s desk. Committees of jurisdiction in both the House of Representatives and Senate, however, have approved these funding levels in the respective funding bills for VA and HUD.
The following FY 2013 budget recommendations should serve as a baseline for homeless veteran assistance for the remainder of the Five-Year Plan. We have already seen an uptick in the number of younger veterans – men and women, including those with dependent children – requesting VA homeless assistance. With more than
2.2 million veterans having deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan, and with those wars winding down, we must ensure our nation’s support system is in place for those who experience severe economic and/or health crises following discharge.
Specifically, these are the funding levels for homeless veteran programs that should be enacted in FY 2013:
The Department of Veterans Affairs should reiterate the need to correctly target VASH vouchers to veterans experiencing chronic homelessness. Additionally, as new SSVF sites come online, VA must ensure the program’s objectives are being met and VASH voucher-holders are able to access the program’s support. SSVF funds could be the difference between secured housing and prolonged homelessness for many of these veterans.
NCHV applauds VA’s continued commitment to the Grant and Per Diem Program, which continues to be the foundation for community-based homeless veteran assistance, and is largely accountable for the more than 60% reduction in veteran homelessness since 2004.