In the 1980s, advocates began raising the alarm that veterans were grossly overrepresented among the nation’s unhoused. The main response was the development of Veteran Stand Downs. At these weekend events, which are still held in communities throughout the country, veterans would campout at local community sites and volunteers provided services and resources for them, including food, clothing, counseling, assistance with minor legal issues, dental care, haircuts, and the like. But then, there were no programs or funding to house veterans.
The US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) established the Office of Homeless Services, administered through the Veteran Health Administration, which included Grant and Per Diem, social work, and employment programs for veterans experiencing homelessness. In the post-9/11 years, former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced a five-year mission to end veteran homelessness, and the VA began investing in permanent supportive housing (PSH) through the US Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) voucher programs.
The VA joined with HUD community continuums of care (COCs), which define community-wide efforts to coordinate services, resources, and expenses directed to end homelessness. In addition, the national Mayoral Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness added more municipal efforts as well as veteran-specific housing operators and advocates.