Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee my name is Sandra A. Miller, and I
serve as Chairman of Vietnam Veterans of America Task Force on Homeless
Veterans. On behalf of VVA, I thank you and your colleagues for this
opportunity to express our views on homeless veterans.
VVA believes the Department of Veterans Affairs is long overdue implementing
section 601 of Public Law 105-368, which established the Pilot Program for VA
Guaranteed Loans for Multifamily Transitional Housing for Homeless Veterans.
These pilot projects were authorized almost 4 years ago and there is no excuse
that thousands of veterans still sleep on the streets because these pilots have
not been started. While different agencies of the Executive branch bicker
amongst themselves about implementing this program, homeless veterans are denied
decent shelter. VVA believes that the permanent staff of the Office of
Management & Budget (OMB) has deliberately delayed implementation of this
program. The permanent staff of OMB essentially said that they would do this in
a public meeting at the VA before the law was enacted, and that if
the law was enacted, that it would still be theirs’ to implement (or not). OMB’s
objection was to use of private funds that might actually weaken their total
control over any program, even though they know nothing about homeless veterans.
OMB has done what they as much said they would do, while America’s veterans who
are homeless needlessly suffer. Now is the time to stop this irresponsible
behavior. Now is the time to demand that the Administration implement the law as
Frankly, the delays are puzzling to VVA: Is it private capital the current
Administration does not like, or is it our most vulnerable veterans, many of
them disabled, that the Administration does not like? VVA cannot understand why
the continued delay, particularly with the professed values of this
Once these projects are implemented, they will expand the vitally needed supply
of transitional housing for homeless veterans. The pilot loan guarantee program
was established by Public Law 105-368 enacted November 11, 1998. This is a
limited pilot program, and a maximum of 15 loans may be made. VVA believes that
because of the delays, all 15 projects should be funded. As the projects are
underway, VA can review the process and make the necessary administration
alterations that are needed.
Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) enthusiastically supports these pilot programs
as a creative and yet thoroughly prudent approach that will help meet the
increasing needs for transitional housing for veterans. By “transitional
housing” we mean housing that is safe, clean, sober and has responsible staff to
ensure that it stays that way, and that supportive services are regularly
provided as to be sufficient to help veterans fully recover as much independence
and autonomy as possible. VVA believes that involving private sector funds in
solutions to America’s problem of veterans who are homeless is essential.
Vietnam Veterans of America believes that the mechanism created by these pilot
projects could create an additional 5,000 beds in long term transitional housing
for homeless veterans in the next five years. This estimate of 5,000 beds is
based on the experience of USVETS in the renovation and construction of the type
of transitional housing units that would be created by this proposed authority.
The experience is that it should cost no more than approximately $20,000 per
bed. It is the belief of VVA and the National Coalition of Homeless Veterans
that in some cases this cost could possibly be reduced a bit with more
experience, at least in some areas of the country.
While the Vietnam Veterans of America is very committed to the creation of
additional pools of capital that would enable some of our service providers to
be able to create additionally needed transitional housing for homeless
veterans, VVA is equally committed to ensuring that adequate safeguards be taken
in regard to the administration of such projects to ensure that they contribute
to helping homeless veterans return to a productive role in American society.
The provisions of the pilot programs were established by the consulting firm,
Birch and Davis Associates, Inc. A member of their team included a
subcontractor, Century Housing Corporation of Culver City, California. Century
Housing has experience in the development and financing of transitional housing
for homeless veterans. They were the developers of the Westside Residence Hall
in Los Angeles, California which was the model which the pilot loan program was
As a result of this experience we are urging the Committee to direct the
Secretary of Veterans Affairs to fund all 15 pilot projects at this time. VVA
is aware that projects financed pursuant to this new authority require veteran
residents to maintain sobriety as a condition of occupancy, charge a reasonable
fee to occupants, provide supportive services and counseling (including job
counseling), and requiring the veteran resident to obtain and keep employment
(or engage in an education or training program designed to lead to meaningful
employment) are all requirements that VVA supports. VVA believes that forcing
veterans to pay rent and keep active helps those residents re-establish personal
responsibility, pride, and self esteem necessary to successful recovery and
reintegration into mainstream society.
VVA holds that the goal of transitional housing must not be just to create more
units of housing, but rather to create more units of safe, clean, sober,
supportive housing that promotes the recovery of self sufficiency and exercise
of responsibility of each veteran who is currently homeless. The stringency of
the rules must be matched by the positive environment and quality
supportive/counseling services established. The difference here is not just one
of semantics, but rather reflects a commitment to an approach that works.
VVA has a commitment to its members to respect our veterans enough to move
beyond “warehousing” to help create additional projects where each veteran has
the opportunity to re-establish his or her sense of self-worth and pride.
Finally funding these projects will be one more solid step in the direction of
creating enough tools to assist veterans to overcome problems and realize their
It is a fact there is a need for a significant number of new units of
transitional housing for veterans; VVA believes that the need is clear,
apparent, and pressing in most areas of the country. There are 275,000 veterans
who are homeless on any given night, with double that number during the course
of a given year. VVA members and others express the need for safe, clean, sober
housing for veterans as being one of the most pressing needs in their efforts to
assist veterans, if indeed not the most pressing need.
VVA agrees with those service providers who believe that the need for such
housing is accelerating as a result of both the shift of the delivery of health
care services by the Veterans Administration (VA) from inpatient based models to
outpatient models of service delivery, as well as the system wide pressures on
VA to “save money.”
VVA has much anecdotal evidence to indicate that the diminishment or virtual
elimination of adequate quality substance abuse treatment and other neuro-psychiatric
treatment services is a significant problem in virtually every major city. In
some cases the inpatient resources devoted to these purposes have not
been shifted to delivery of similar services on an outpatient basis. In other
cases the lack of safe, clean, sober housing for veterans while in outpatient
treatment or participating in partial hospitalization programs destroys any
effectiveness that the treatment might provide toward rehabilitation and
recovery of the veterans affected, particularly veterans who are homeless.
VVA believes the time for discussion of this program is long past, it is time
this program became a reality. We urge this committee to direct the Secretary
of VA to finally finalize the administrative guidelines that will govern these
loans. At the same time the VVA requests the Secretary of VA to issue RFP’s for
the pilot projects before the end of the current year.
At this time VVA also wants to be on the record to urge Congress to fully fund
the VA Homeless Grant and Per Diem and the DOL HVRP programs authorized by
Congress with passage of P.L. 107-95, The Homeless Veterans Comprehensive
Assistance Act of 2001, in their FY03 budgets. Over the years, these programs
administered by the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Labor, have been a vital
resource in providing assistance to homeless veterans, Congress should fully
fund these homeless programs at the authorized levels in Fiscal Year 03 in order
to carry out the comprehensive intent of the law as passed.
Mr. Chairman, the Department of Veterans Affairs has testified before the House
and Senate Appropriations Committees regarding its FY03 appropriations request.
It has not included funding for homeless veterans. Why is the VA not asking for
this funding? How does the VA expect to provide the care and services as set
forth in P.L. 107-95 without appropriate funding to do so?
VVA is requesting that funding, authorized under P.L. 107-95, be designated by
this committee solely to help homeless veterans. Far too often the VA comes
before this committee and cannot account for the allocated funding that has been
appropriated to them. For this reason, VVA is asking that $135 million be
earmarked in the VA FY03 budget and $75 million for each of the next four years
for the VA Homeless Grant and Per Diem program.
Lastly, VVA urges full funding to the
authorized level of $50 million for the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program
(HVRP) administered by the Department of Labor. This training/employment program
has long suffered the consequences of limited funding. How can the Department
of Labor extol a commitment to the training of homeless veterans and deny them
the full funding that has been requested under P.L. 107-95?
Mr. Chairman, on behalf of Vietnam Veterans
of America, I thank you and your distinguished colleagues for the opportunity to
offer our views regarding our nations homeless veterans and urge your support by
providing full funding of P.L. 107-95.