Sadly, today the decision was made by the House of Representatives to cut funding for 10,000 HUD VASH vouchers for homeless veterans. This comes at a time when the VA, HUD and community-based homeless providers are making significant headway in mitigating veteran homelessness. At the local, state and national level –how are we supposed to sustain the existing system of care, let alone expand it to meet the VA’s five-year plan to eliminate veteran homelessness?
And to add more fuel to the fire, a recent HUD report revealed a huge discrepancy that has been largely ignored –homeless veterans are significantly older than non-vets. This reiterates the need for supportive housing options and poses an important question…How many more years are these aging veterans going to stay on the streets before dying?
WASHINGTON — H.R. 1 now being considered by the Senate
On Feb. 19, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 1, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act of 2011, which would eliminate $75 million for approximately 10,000 new permanent supportive housing vouchers for chronically homeless veterans in fiscal year (FY) 2011.
These vouchers represent a collaboration between the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) to help veterans with serious mental illness and other disabilities who need long-term assistance to obtain and maintain housing. Under the program, VA provides case management and health services for veterans who receive HUD-VA Supportive Housing (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. The agency has received and awarded nearly 30,000 vouchers since 2008, approximately 10,000 per year.
During a Feb. 17 hearing in the House of Representatives Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, Chairman Jeff Miller (R-FL) said he was informed that of the 30,000 vouchers that have been authorized, 11,000 remain unused.
According to officials at HUD and VA, however, 29,000 of the VASH vouchers have been awarded to homeless veterans – these veterans are now either permanently housed or actively searching for housing with vouchers in hand. About 7,000 veterans who have received vouchers are currently in the final phase of the housing selection process.
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.
The HUD-VASH program is a vital component of the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, which calls for ending veteran homelessness by 2015.
The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) maintains that an additional 10,000 vouchers are needed in FY 2011. This would bring the VASH program to the 40,000 voucher level, representing two-thirds of the number most veteran service providers and federal officials agree are needed to end chronic veteran homelessness.
Source: National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, Mar. 1, 2011, by Matt Gornick