In 2009, Congress authorized a three-year demonstration program to explore ways to increase the housing stability of homeless and at-risk veterans and their families.
Now, here we are at the tail end of 2015, and a lot has changed in the years since. The nation has reduced veteran homelessness by 35 percent using many of the same methods first employed in that program, known as the Veterans Homelessness Prevention Demonstration (VHPD). It was one of the first steps in the Obama administration’s initiative to end veteran homelessness by 2016.
Last week, just in time for the New Year (and to avert another government shutdown), Congress passed a final $1.1 trillion spending bill for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 that will fund all federal discretionary programs through next fall. President Obama signed the bill into law Friday, Dec. 18.
The bill includes all federal agencies’ discretionary spending: big ticket items like the military, veterans’ health care, education and law enforcement support, medical research, and virtually all of the budget for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), including all its major homeless programs.
Research shows that people who have spent time in the foster care system tend to become homeless at an earlier age than homeless people without foster care histories. They’re also overrepresented among the homeless youth population.
It’s well known in the homeless assistance field that the foster care system itself is a feeder into youth homelessness, but this year it’s come to the attention of several senators who have introduced legislation to address the problem.
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.
These talking points are meant to help advocates explain to their members of Congress the purpose of legislation that will prevent eligibility changes for certain housing assistance programs that serve homeless veterans.