White House Plan to Preventing and Ending Veteran Homelessness
The President has pledged not just to address veteran homelessness, but to end it. The Administration has made historic investments, using proven strategies in partnership between HUD and VA, to achieve this goal. We’ve helped veterans and their families access rapid rehousing when falling into homelessness, and have aided chronically homeless veterans in stabilizing their lives through permanent supportive housing, which – in addition to serving those veterans – generates public sector savings exceeding the cost of the intervention.
As a result, we’ve made strong progress. Since 2010, nearly 230,000 veterans and their family members have been supported by HUD’s targeted housing vouchers and VA homelessness programs designed to permanently house, rapidly rehouse, or prevent families from falling into homelessness. According to the most recent nationwide data, from 2010 to January 2014 the total number of homeless veterans nationwide declined 33 percent, and the number of unsheltered veterans – those sleeping on the street or outside at night – declined 44 percent. While more work remains, this overall progress shows that veteran homelessness is not an intractable problem, it is a challenge that can be solved over time if we act decisively and have a shared commitment from the Federal government, state and local governments, private businesses, philanthropies, and communities.
Ending veteran homelessness does not mean that we can prevent every veteran from facing a housing crisis in the future. But it does mean that when and if a housing crisis does occur, we can have systems in place to identify and quickly house all of our veterans.
Reaching the goal of ending veteran homelessness will require ramped up engagement from partners across the country and at the state and local level, in collaboration with the federal government. In June 2014, as part of Joining Forces, the First Lady helped to launch the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness to help advance this work. As part of the Challenge, 570 mayors, governors, and other local officials have committed to ending veteran homelessness in their communities by the end of this year – an unprecedented expression of the local commitment that is required to end veteran homelessness. Last week, the First Lady held a call with mayors who are committed to the challenge, discussing specific actions they can take to end veteran homelessness in their communities.
In December 2014, New Orleans became the first major city to meet the challenge and end veteran homelessness, and state and local communities around the country are working to this goal. Today, to help other cities learn from the progress underway, First Lady Michelle Obama is taking part in a forum for mayors and local leaders in New Orleans, as part of the Joining Forces initiative’s continued work to advance the Mayors Challenge. At the forum, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, federal officials, and community partners will discuss the strategies New Orleans used to effectively end homelessness among veterans a year ahead of the national goal.
New Orleans is not alone in making dramatic progress on ending veteran homelessness – other communities, such as Houston, Phoenix, and Salt Lake City, have reached major milestones, and continue to strive toward the goal of ending homelessness among veterans by the end of 2015. Achieving this goal means that veterans are not sleeping on our streets, all veterans in shelter or transitional housing are connected to permanent housing, and communities have systems in place to prevent and end future homelessness among veterans quickly and efficiently, ensuring that it is a rare, brief, and non-recurring experience.
To work with communities in achieving this goal, the Administration has invested significant new resources and focus. Almost 70,000 HUD-VASH housing vouchers have been provided to over 400 Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) nationwide to date, and another 10,000 vouchers will be awarded in fiscal year 2015. The President’s FY 2016 budget includes a total of $1.4 billion for VA programs that prevent or end homelessness among veterans, including $300 million for Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) and $374 million for case management and other supportive services to support nearly 95,000 veterans in the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program. Federal agencies are also working together to speed progress in local communities, providing guidance and support to leaders who have signed on to the Mayors Challenge, and encouraging all communities to conduct point-in-time counts of unsheltered people in January 2016, to obtain an accurate assessment of the number of homeless individuals at the end of 2015.
These federal efforts are all aimed at supporting local communities to implement the strategies that are proving effective in promoting rapid access to permanent housing for all veterans.
Essential strategies at the community level include:
- Creating coordinated assessment and entry systems to ensure that there is no wrong door for veterans seeking help and to create more efficient pathways out of homelessness and into permanent housing;
- Conducting coordinated outreach and engagement efforts to proactively seek out veterans in need of assistance, sharing information across outreach teams and sites, and collaborating across systems, including law enforcement, prisons and jails, hospitals, libraries, and job centers;
- Identifying all veterans experiencing homelessness within the community by name and creating a shared list of veterans experiencing homelessness to ensure that no veteran and his or her family falls through the cracks and that all are linked to the most appropriate housing and services options;
- Setting concrete and ambitious monthly or quarterly goals for helping veterans and their families get back into housing as a strategy for pushing local systems to perform with maximum efficiency and achieve better outcomes;
- Implementing Housing First practices and approaches across every part of the homelessness services and housing systems, removing barriers to help veterans and their families obtain permanent housing as quickly as possible, without unnecessary prerequisites; and
- Increasing connections to employment by collaborating with Workforce Investment Boards, homelessness services and housing organization, VA Medical Centers, and employers, recognizing that employment and income are critical to the ability of people to obtain and sustain housing stability and avoid future crises.
These strategies, essential for ending veteran homelessness, will also help communities to work toward ending homelessness for every American child, youth, adult, and family. For more details regarding Federal programs and the most effective strategies for ending veteran homelessness, see USICH’s webpage and VA’s webpage. For more details about the Mayors Challenge, and the list of elected officials who have signed on, visit HUD’s webpage.
Earlier this year, Administration officials fanned out across the country to participate in the annual Point-in-Time (PIT) counts. HUD requires its partner communities to conduct at least a biannual PIT count of homeless persons who are unsheltered. For this year’s PIT count, Secretaries Castro, McDonald, and Perez, along with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, OMB Director Shaun Donovan, and other Senior Administration Officials participated alongside volunteers to help shed light on the efforts underway and the additional commitments needed to reach the goal of ending veteran homelessness.