Here at the Alliance, we believe the solution to homelessness is housing. Connecting homeless people to housing ends their homelessness, but finding the resources to help people access housing isn’t always easy. And unfortunately, economic trends are making this task even harder.
In many places across America, there is simply not enough affordable housing available to move people out of homelessness and into permanent housing. Without this housing stock, many homeless Americans are likely to remain stuck in the homeless assistance system. Sadly, it doesn’t look like this problem is about to get better any time soon.
On a given night in 2015, nearly 50,000 veterans experienced homelessness across the country, a staggering number, yet a number that represents a 36 percent decline since 2010. We’re making progress. But now administrative changes brewing at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) could threaten that progress.
The changes have to do with several VA transitional housing and rapid rehousing programs that have been largely responsible for the progress we have made in recent years. In short, these changes would make certain veterans ineligible for these programs. Senior leaders at VA estimate such changes would affect approximately 15 percent of the current population served by these programs.
Veteran’s Day is a time to honor the service and sacrifice of the many men and women who served in the United States military. The best way we at the Alliance believe we can do that is by ensuring that every single one of these men and women and their families have a warm and safe place to call home.
Five years ago, the White House and the Department of Veterans Affairs issued a challenge to the nation: end veteran homelessness. Since that day, the Obama administration, Congress, as well as local and community partners, and stakeholders like the Alliance have been hard at work to improve and invest in programs and system changes that will house our heroes. Nationally, we are seeing results. According to the 2014 Point-in-Time Count, the number of homeless veterans has dropped 33 percent since that challenge was issued.
Clearly, there’s a growing recognition that employment is an important part of the solution to homelessness and a hunger for knowledge about what works, what funding is available, and how to deliver effective employment services.
Now is certainly an opportune time to renew the focus on employment: recent federal policy changes such as the passage of HEARTH Act and the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) place an added emphasis on helping people experiencing homelessness succeed in the labor market and ensuring that employment services are accessible and effective. Moreover, the growth of the rapid re-housing strategy has brought attention to just how critical effective, specialized employment services are to keeping individuals and families employed and stably housed.