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|Ending veterans' homelessness will require an investment in permanent supportive housing, discharge services, and affordable housing.|
For the past several years, the Administration and Congress have made ending veteran homelessness a national priority. In 2009, the Administration announced a commitment to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, and they have continued their commitment through expanded and enhancing the array of federal services made available to homeless veterans.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Congress have invested in rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, and expanded discharge services and employment services to veterans in the past five years. As a result, we have seen tremendous progress. Homelessness among our nation’s veterans has declined 33 percent since 2010, down now to 49,933 veterans on a single night in January 2014.
This success has taught us that, like their non-veteran counterparts, many homeless veterans can exit homelessness with the help of rental assistance and a few additional services. In fact, many of the services and interventions that have proven successful in reducing overall homelessness are largely responsible for the declines we have seen among the veteran population.
However, numerous 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 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. After that initial assessment, VA should be prepared to address instances of homelessness with permanent supportive housing, rapid re-housing strategies, service-intensive interventions, as well as target prevention efforts to veterans at risk of becoming homeless.