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|Ending veterans' homelessness will require an investment in permanent supportive housing, discharge services, and affordable housing.|
The federal government has recently taken on homelessness among veterans as a top priority. In fact, Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) General Eric Shinseki has committed to substantially reducing the number of homeless veterans in five years. This is a tall order – at present, an order that would end homelessness for 76,000 veterans. In order to achieve this goal, VA must invest in permanent supportive housing, discharge services, and increased affordable housing options.
Many veterans experiencing homelessness could exit homelessness with rental assistance and a few additional services.
However, many homeless veterans face some of the same challenges as people experiencing chronic homelessness: mental illness, substance abuse and addiction, and physical disability. For veterans, many of these ailments may be the result of service-induced trauma. As such, the first step to successfully ending homelessness among veterans is to address vulnerability factors when soldiers are discharged; VA must be prepared to assess the housing status of veterans as they leave active service and be able to follow-up afterwards.
After that initial assessment, VA should be prepared to address homelessness though permanent supportive housing, rapid re-housing strategies, service-intensive interventions, and prevention policies for at-risk veterans.