Where We Stand Today in Ending Veteran Homelessness

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014

Courtesy of Emanuel Cavallaro, National Alliance to End Homelessness (Source)

"On this Veterans Day, it’s a good time to take a moment to consider how far we have come and how far we still have to go in our efforts to end veteran homelessness. Since 2011, we have reduced veteran homelessness by 33 percent. Since January 2013, we have reduced it by 11 percent. Take a look at the graph below, showing the rapid declines in veteran homelessness according to shelter status.

It’s stark, isn’t it? When you’re looking at that line graph, it’s very easy to forget that those numbers and those lines represent actual lives. At the Alliance, that’s something we remind ourselves of every day. The further those lines get toward zero, the more veterans are housed, the more lives are changed, the more families are saved.

Make no mistake about it, we are proud of those numbers going down, but the goal is still to reach zero. How will we do it? This month we honored two cities, New York and New Orleans, who have achieved reductions in veteran homelessness by more than 60 percent. They’re doing something (actually, a lot of things) right. We took a look at their homeless systems, and here’s what we found.

Bipartisan political will and support for programs that serve homeless veterans and their families. Constant, open communication and collaboration between stakeholders at all levels, an “all hands on deck” attitude; and accurate, up-to-date data that guides the targeting of resources (i.e. funding for homeless programs) where they are most needed. The progress in these cities is part of a national effort, of course. Back in 2010, the Obama Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) set the goal to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. That deadline is rapidly approaching, and we at the Alliance are as aware of that as anyone. Because there are still a lot – almost 50,000 -- of homeless veterans out there.

As part of the push to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, Congress provided $1.4 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2014 for VA homeless assistance programs. The Obama Administration has asked for $1.6 billion in its budget proposal for FY 2015, and we are still waiting on Congress to finalize those funding bills.

Right now the bipartisan spirit of the fight to end veteran homelessness is more important than ever, with a new GOP-controlled Congress beginning soon. The Obama Administration and the new Congress won’t see eye-to-eye on everything, but let’s hope they agree that we should finish what we started and end veteran homelessness for good.

As First Lady Michelle Obama said at our National Conference in July, “As Americans, the idea that anyone who has worn our country’s uniform spends their night sleeping on the ground should horrify us.”

When volunteers across the country fanned out for the 2014 Point-in-Time Count homeless census in January, they found 49,933 veterans. Let’s make sure when volunteers set out in January 2016, they don’t find any."