Communities Reduce Veteran Homelessness by a Third

written by Steve Berg
June 3, 2013

It is common knowledge in the homeless assistance field that veterans are overrepresented in the overall homeless population. And while the reasons for this, which have to do both with their military service and with who serves in the military, remain a subject of open debate, perhaps the most perplexing question is how we as a country have tolerated veteran homelessness for so long.

That is changing. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki are pursuing a specific plan to end veteran homelessness, and congress has come up with the resources to fund it. Now HUD-VASH, SSVF, and other programs are providing permanent supportive housing, rapid re-housing, and other interventions to fight the problem of homelessness among veterans and their families.

Data systems and program performance have also improved. And for the past few years, the overall number of homeless veterans has declined, even as service members return from wars in the Middle East to an economy without enough jobs.

And we at the Alliance have been tracking that progress. We have been collecting results from the nationwide Point-In-Time Counts that took place in January 2013 (You can help the Alliance by emailing a link to your community’s count or a media clip that discusses your count to counts@naeh.org.)

We’ve found that a number of communities have made significant progress. We’re immensely grateful to the following communities that have achieved reductions in veteran homelessness of at least one-third since 2011. We know there are more, and as soon as they send us their 2013 PIT Count results, we’ll let you know about them!

To meet the goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, we will need to accelerate the pace of these reductions. Beginning this fall, communities will have the tools to do just that. SSVF funding nationally will increase from $100 million to $300 million per year, and the Alliance estimates that $300 million should be enough to provide services to 110,000 veteran households.

This will make it possible to reduce the number of homeless veterans on a massive scale in a short period of time. In early October, the expanded SSVF programs will start seeing clients, and many communities could potentially house 70, 80, or even 100 percent of their homeless veterans by the time they do their PIT Counts this January. That would pave the way for a shift to homelessness prevention system for veterans.

If we are to be successful, communities will have to target SSVF resources to veterans who are already homeless, while coordinating HUD-VASH housing vouchers as they become available with other resources like Grants and Per Diem and employment assistance. Communities will also need to work efficiently to locate every veteran who is homeless in order to get him or her into housing with the appropriate level of subsidy and supports.