Congressional Briefing on Ending Veterans Homelessness

written by Ian Lisman
May 28, 2012

The Alliance and its partners have formed the Homeless Veteran’s National Advocacy Working Group. This group is dedicated to ending homelessness among veterans through sensible policy and targeted programs. Among other things, the group is putting on a series of Congressional briefings. The first one was this last Wednesday, May 23. This was a joint briefing for both Houses of Congress and both parties. It was sponsored by Senator Richard Burr (R-NC), who also provided opening remarks. Attendees included staffers from the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees and the MilCon-VA and T-HUD Appropriations Subcommittees, as well as non-Congressional staff.

Antonia Fasanelli, chair of the American Bar Association Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, acted as moderator and introduced our panel. She spoke to the need for continued funding of these programs, and introduced Senator Burr.  The Senator spoke to the need to use data-driven resources wisely, but to never forget the human faces of the people that these programs serve. Barbara Poppe with USICH covered a brief overview of veterans homelessness, and progress in the federal government’s five-year plan to end veterans homelessness; and expressed an impassioned plea to keep the plan on track through continued funding and support.

The HUD-VASH program overview was briefed by Vince Kane with VA’s National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans. Vince brings a broad perspective, showing the evidence-based, pragmatic approach to properly targeting the higher-cost, case-management-intensive intervention of VASH.

The SSVF grant was discussed by John Kuhn, National Director of Homeless Evaluation and Supportive Services for Veteran Families. John explained how the SSVF grant represented a new approach to ending veterans homelessness by focusing on prevention, rapid re-housing and expanding VA’s reach to include children and spouses of the veteran.  SSVF provides a whole array of services not traditionally offered by VA. The panel addressed the need for community partnerships, acknowledging that VA can’t end veteran homelessness alone, and its community partners have the relationships with clients and knowledge of the community to help VA leverage its resources.

The final speaker was Eloise Wormley, an SSVF consumer from the Community Council for the Homeless at Friendship Place in Washington, DC.  She gave a moving speech about her experiences and how the program helped her. The difference that being housed made in her life was evident. The pride having her own apartment and being self-sufficient, with a little help from the SSVF grant, was apparent to everyone in attendance.

The takeaway is that these programs work, and as a responsible society, we must continue to fully fund and support these sensible and much-needed interventions. Staffers got a good sense of how these programs operate, why they make sense and their place in the critical mission of ending homelessness among our nation’s heroes.