Expert Q & A | June 10, 2008
Senator Kit Bond (R-MO)
United States Senate
What is the newest issue emerging in homelessness policy?
According to recent government and news media estimates, anywhere from 20-33 percent of homeless people using shelters are veterans. Homelessness is a major problem among Iraq, Afghanistan, and Vietnam War veterans, particularly those who are not insured and who may have both physical and psychological problems like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). It is critical that these veterans be provided with the care and transitional services they need to be integrated back into their communities and former lives.
What issue in homelessness policy should everyone be reminded of?
Our veterans are owed more than a blanket and a hot meal. It is critical that these veterans be provided with the health care, mental health care, housing, and transitional services they need to be integrated back into their communities and former lives. Good housing for our veterans is the least we can do for those who have fought on the front line in defense of our freedom.
How did you start working in the field of homelessness (or housing)?
I have been working on housing issues for years as chairman and ranking member of the Senate subcommittee that funds the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Ending homelessness and providing more affordable housing and transition services have always been priorities. This issue of homeless veterans has also been something I have long addressed. With recent press reports about the growing number of homeless veterans the issue has gained momentum. We have had recent success in bringing attention to the issue as well. In 2007, Senator Murray and I secured $75 million to help homeless veterans in the fiscal year 2008 THUD bill, (included in the Omnibus bill that was signed into law). Administered as a joint program between HUD and the VA, the funds allow veterans to use Section 8 funds to pay for housing while the VA works to provide the needed programs to help those veterans return to and reintegrate into civilian life.
Where do you draw your inspiration?
My son is a U.S. Marine who served two tours of duty in Iraq, so for me, the debt we owe our veterans is personal. Throughout our history, tens of thousands of young men and women have given their lives to protect us from our enemies. Those from whom we ask everything should be able to expect something in return: good leadership, a strategy for victory, the right equipment to perform their missions, the best health care available when they return, and transitional services to be integrated back into their communities and former lives.
Why do you think ending homelessness is possible?
There are no easy answers to homelessness and ending homeless will take time and commitment. The problems are different for each person and there is no quick fix to be found in a timetable. Some homeless people have mental health issues which must be addressed for them to remain in a stable situation. Many families — particularly single-parent families — find themselves in a dire situation because of external circumstances. Perhaps they lost a job, or were evicted, or are a victim of family violence. If we can help them with these circumstances, we can more easily find permanent housing for them.
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