President’s Pledge Accelerated Effort to End Veteran Homelessness

The federal government has made significant progress in the fight to end veteran homelessness despite failing to meet President Obama’s pledge to eliminate the problem by the end of 2015.

Veteran homelessness has dropped 47 percent since 2010, when Obama set his goal. And since the beginning of 2015, about 30 cities and counties have met federal benchmarks signaling progress in housing homeless veterans.

“We knew that those were all going to be tough goals to achieve,” Ann Oliva, deputy assistant secretary for special needs at the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), told Stars and Stripes. “But we thought they were doable, and if we made the right policy decisions and had the right data and resources we needed, we could [make] progress, which is what we did,” she said.

The president’s pledge was followed by a sharp increase in federal resources to address the issue. Congress has allocated an average of $67 million for a voucher program to house homeless veterans over the past five years.

“When it was announced that the goal was to end veteran homelessness in five years, I think that was taken by everyone as, ‘Can we actually do that?’” said Randy Brown of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. “But that goal and the serious efforts to put a plan behind it and put resources behind it changed the landscape from managing homelessness to actually ending homelessness,” Brown said.

One reason the federal government — primarily HUD and the Department of Veterans Affairs — has fallen short is that more veterans are becoming homeless than officials had estimated when Obama announced his goal, Oliva said.

“We thought it was going to decrease over time,” she said. “That didn’t play out the way we thought it would.”

Another factor is the lack of affordable housing, according to the story. HUD and the Department of Veterans Affairs recently announced they would provide $39 million for the first half of 2016 to house about 5,300 veterans. Since the federal voucher program began in 2008, the government has awarded 85,205 vouchers.

“Certainly we’re on the right path,” Oliva said.

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen
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