Monday, September 17, 2012

House hearing highlights veterans housing

by Ethan Handelman, National Housing Conference

A House hearing Friday underscored the need for further focus on veterans housing needs by presenting both veterans’ personal stories and policy recommendations from leading experts. House Financial Services’ Subcommittee on Insurance, Housing and Community Opportunity held “Housing for Heroes: Examining How Federal Programs Can Better Serve Veterans”. The first panel called on three veterans who had experienced homelessness and emerged stronger to offer their personal perspective on how to improve federal programs aimed at ending veterans homelessness.

The second panel called six experts whose organizations focus on programs serving homeless veterans. All witnesses acknowledged the progress made so far in the federal pledge to end homelessness by 2015 and offered a variety of comments on the challenges that involves. Particularly compelling were Steve Berg of the National Alliance to End Homelessness (an NHC member) and Baylee Crone of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, both of whom emphasized the essential HUD-VASH program for combining housing assistance with supportive services. The full list of witnesses for the second panel was:
  • Ms. Heather Ansley, Esq.,Vice President of Veterans Policy, Vets First
  • Mr. Steve Berg, Vice President for Programs and Policy, National Alliance to End Homelessness
  • Ms. Baylee Crone, Technical Assistance Director, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
  • Ms. Sandy Miller, Chair, Vietnam Veterans of America, Homeless Veterans Committee
  • Mr. Arnold Stalk, Founder and President, Veterans Village, Las Vegas, NV
  • Ms. Eileen Higgins, Vice President, Housing Services, Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Chicago
During the hearing, Rep. Al Green (TX) announced his bill, HR 6381, the HAVEN Act, to create a pilot program for home repairs and energy retrofits for low-income veterans. He acknowledged the contributions of Rebuilding Together (an NHC member) and Vets First in helping to design the legislation. Cosponsors of the bill include Bachus (AL), Cleaver (MO), and Heck (NV).

Members present at the hearing included Biggert (IL), Gutierrez (IL), Green (TX), Hurt (VA), Waters (CA), Dold (IL).

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