Chronic homelessness remains a significant problem for U.S. veterans, with an estimated 40,000 veterans included among the 553,000 Americans who have no place to call home.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH) has become one of the most successful tools in attacking the homeless vet problem, helping to bring the number of homeless vets down 47% over the past eight years.
Yet, last month, VA Secretary David J. Shulkin announced plans to end the HUD-VASH program and reallocate $460 million of the program’s money to other VA projects.
Fortunately, diligent veterans’ advocates and lawmakers have succeeded in getting the VA to retract its decision to cut HUD-VASH funding, though Shulkin says he’s still seeking to restructure spending.
Veteran’s Homelessness Program Takes Homeless Count Down 47%
In 2009, the VA and HUD combined efforts to help end the national epidemic of veteran homelessness, creating the HUD-VASH program. HUD provides housing subsidy vouchers for veterans, while the VA provides case workers to help veterans maintain a life off the streets.
The program has been widely successful. VA funding for the program started at $5 million in 2009 and has now reached $500 million. Throughout the past eight years, the program has helped pull numbers of homeless American veterans down 47%, distributing over 85,000 vouchers to veterans.
Veterans participating in the program also receive help with chronic physical illness, PTSD, substance abuse issues, gaining employment and paying bills.
Shulkin Announces HUD-VASH Funding Cuts Despite Apparent Support
Back in November 2017, HUD Secretary Ben Carson and Shulkin publicly applauded President Trump’s commitment to tackle veteran homelessness. Four days later, without consulting VA officials, veterans, or HUD, Shulkin announced the VA had decided to eliminate its highly successful homeless program.
The decision was first mentioned in early September 2017, in a memo announcing redistribution of $460 million in funds toward other general VA “priorities” like modernizing the department and helping vets find health care outside of the VA.
VA Retracts Decision After Senate Subcommittee / HUD Protest
Needless to say, the announcement was met with protest and outrage from both lawmakers and veteran’s groups who felt the decision was irresponsible and cruel.
HUD subsequently released data showing a 1.5% rise in veteran homelessness for 2016, the first increase seen since 2010, helping further lawmakers efforts in getting Shulkin to retract the plans.
On December 6, after fourteen members of the Senate Appropriations Military Construction-VA Subcommittee urged the VA to reconsider, Shulkin released a statement saying, “There will be absolutely no change in the funding to support our homeless program.”
The HUD-VASH program continues to help our nation’s veterans maintain an independent lifestyle and reach for future opportunities. We applaud the efforts of HUD, lawmakers and other veterans’ advocates in attacking the VA’s proposal and achieving ongoing support of the HUD-VASH program.