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HOMELESS VETERANS TASK FORCE REPORT

BY SANDY MILLER, CHAIR
As we approach the Springfield National Convention, the Task Force has taken a look at our resolutions and has made some changes and adjustments. Our mission continues.

On February 6, new homeless legislation was introduced in Congress. The Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act (HEARTH), H.R. 840, was introduced by Reps. Julia Carson (D-Ind.), Geoff Davis (R-Ky.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), and Rick Renzi (R-Ariz.). In seeking to re-authorize and strengthen the HUD McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance programs, HEARTH respects greater decision-making at the local level, more closely aligns the HUD definition of homelessness with other federal agencies, expands resources for emergency shelter and supportive services, provides a framework for greater homeless prevention activity, and allows communities the flexibility to implement a range of housing solutions. Though the HEARTH bill does not designate “veterans” as a sub-population, it does provide a way for agencies to offer expanded services to all homeless individuals.

Twenty years ago, VA began a national effort to eradicate chronic homelessness by providing $5 million for a pilot program to support contract residential care and to create domiciliary care for homeless veterans. Today, the VA funds more than 15,000 beds in transitional housing facilities and VA residential treatment programs. Local non-profit and faith-based agencies provide the services for these programs. One of the biggest barriers for these agencies to overcome is the burdensome budgetary process used for the reimbursement for services. VVA’s Homeless Veterans Task Force is moving forward with a resolution that would make these funds available in a more streamlined, less burdensome payment-for-services process.

Most recently, the VA announced a $24 million spending package, the largest one-time designation in its history, for programs benefitting homeless veterans. This funding will provide $10 million for approximately 1,000 new transitional housing beds; $12 million for seriously mentally ill veterans, terminally ill veterans, women veterans, and other special-needs categories; and $2 million for other programs. Additional information on homeless veteran services provided by the VA may be found at www.va.gov/homeless

The Interagency Council on Homelessness continues to focus on eradicating homelessness by providing a vehicle for HUD, HHS, VA, and DOL to work together in providing grants and keeping its finger on the pulse. Through the efforts of ICH, ten-year plans to address homelessness in cities across the country have been created and instituted in order to, as the ICH says, decrease the number of homeless. According to information from ICH, New York City has seen a 13 percent decrease in homelessness; Philadelphia saw a 50 percent decrease; Miami had a 30 percent decrease; Denver had an 11 percent decrease; and San Francisco
had a 29 percent decrease. A complete chart may be seen at www.usich.gov

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