Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Veteran homelessness is falling. How do we end it?

by Maya Brennan, Center for Housing Policy

The number of homeless veterans dropped 7.2 percent between January 2011 and January 2012, according to the latest data from HUD. The nation’s chronically homeless population shrank by 6.8 percent in the same timeframe. Concerted efforts to provide permanent housing and supportive services are making progress. To build on this achievement, let’s keep pushing forward to serve the needs of chronically homeless veterans and help returning veterans make a successful transition to civilian life.

The national effort to end veterans’ homelessness includes programs that serve veterans at every level of need, including homelessness prevention assistance, emergency shelter beds, transitional housing, and permanent supportive housing. (See an earlier NHC Open House Blog post for a summary of veterans’ challenges.) One component of the solution involves veteran-specific programs like Grant and Per Diem (GPD), Enhanced-Use Leases (EUL) and HUD-VASH vouchers—especially when they can be project-based. But these programs don’t fully serve the needs of homeless veterans without adding in funds from one or more standard affordable housing programs (CDBG and HOME, for example). Permanent housing solutions may also require Low-Income Housing Tax Credits. In short, it takes a full housing policy menu to serve the full array of housing needs.

Veterans’ housing programs work in concert with robust supportive services to help residents recover from trauma, addiction and other mental health issues and stay stably housed. Smart programs can also help veterans become part of a community and rebuild connections that support positive outcomes. Continuing these efforts and finding strong, effective, and replicable models is critically important for our ongoing efforts to serve the nation’s veterans.

Our nation’s veterans have valuable contributions to make to society, and communities should gladly welcome them home—to a real, permanent home.

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