Ending Veterans Homelessness: A recap of our congressional briefings

written by naehblog
October 6, 2010

Today’s guest post comes from our new Advocacy intern, Jeremy Nichols. Yesterday, Jeremy attended the Alliance-sponsored congressional briefings on ending veterans homelessness – this is his report.

Did you know that though veterans make up only 11 percent of the civilian population they account for roughly 20 percent of homeless people in the nation?

With that alarming statistic in the back of our minds, my colleagues and I headed to Capitol Hill for two briefings on Tuesday about ending veterans homelessness.

As far as Capitol Hill briefings go, these received great attendance from Hill staffers and members of the homelessness provider community. The morning briefing was hosted by Congressional Caucus on Homelessness with a strong presence from the Alliance and the Corporation for Supportive Housing and the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. The Honorable Congresswoman Judy Biggert (who also happens to be a co-chair of the Caucus) gave the opening remarks and once again showed her support for the cause. Brava Congresswoman Biggert!

Our second briefing was for the Senate and quite a few staffers turned out to hear the message.

Tori Lyon, the Executive Director for the Jericho Project in New York City was the first speaker. She discussed how her program is using the HUD-VASH program to make supportive housing a cost-effective solution to veterans homelessness. It costs $12,000 for the Jericho Project to house someone for a year compared to $20,000 for a shelter cot and $67,000 for a jail cell. Ms. Lyon said it best – not only is supportive housing the right thing to do its also the most sensible.

Eilleen Higgins from Catholic Charities brought her experience has the manager for residential housing to the table when discussing the options available to veterans experiencing homelessness, stressing that a close partnership with the VA was crucial to success.

The final speaker for the two briefings was Anthony Taylor. A United States Army veteran, Mr. Taylor struggled with homelessness but with the assistance of the HUD-VASH voucher program now has an apartment in DC. Mr. Taylor’s success story was truly inspiring to all of us attending the briefing. He is a firm supporter of Housing First and discussed the positive changes he had seen in other veterans once they received housing and achieved the stability that housing can give people.

If there was one message to take away from the briefings, it was just that: the imperativeness of housing as a way to end veterans homelessness. These American heroes deserve nothing less than all we have to offer. The least – the very least – we can do is ensure that, when they return, they have a place to call home.