By Leo Shane III
Stars and Stripes
Published: December 10, 2012
WASHINGTON – The Department of Veterans Affairs will invest $300 million in homelessness prevention efforts next year, tripling the funding for those programs as the agency works get all veterans off the streets in the next three years.
Officials announced the funding boost during the Monday release of the annual homelessness report by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The January 2012 count estimated about 62,600 veterans without stable housing, a drop of more than 7 percent from a year earlier.
VA Secretary Eric Shinseki called those statistics encouraging but added that “we won’t be satisfied until every veteran who fought for America has a home in America.” He said the ambitious goal of ending veterans homelessness by late 2015 remains unchanged, but acknowledged the task ahead will be difficult.
Over the last two years, new VA housing and support initiatives have helped get almost 14,000 veterans off the streets. To reach the late 2015 goal, officials will have to find ways to house more than 20,000 needy veterans each year.
Shinseki said the $300 million for the department’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families program will help with that by preventing veterans from ever finding themselves on the streets. That’s up from about $100 million in funding in 2012.
The program awards grants to non-profit groups that provide support services –- child care, transportation and financial counseling, for example -– to help veterans keep their homes or move to other, more sustainable permanent housing. Shinseki said the goal is to find ways to help veterans who are “one missed paycheck away from being homeless.”
About 35,000 individuals received SSVF assistance last year, VA officials said. With the funding boost, that number is expected to grow to more than 70,000 veterans and family members.
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said that his department has also stepped up efforts to help with veterans housing in recent years, increasing the number of Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing grants to $75 million last year.
Nationally, the estimated number of homeless Americans dropped less than one percent from January 2011 to January 2012, to about 634,000. Donovan said that’s an encouraging figure, considering the continued economic downturn when the estimates were compiled.