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.
The date Dec. 21 has meanings both ancient and new. Communities in every era have paused in awareness of waning daylight and the promise of the sun’s return; in our era, some will pause to look for assurance that the world keeps turning. It is appropriate that National Homeless Persons’ Memorial Day is Dec. 21.
For people living on the street, the darkest day of the calendar is especially dark; for a person to die on the street is an ending that should be unthinkable. Homeless advocates, today, will pause to honor the neighbors and fellow citizens who passed away in 2012 without a home.
After years of trying to nail down a definition of chronic homelessness, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) finally released a new definition earlier this month. The new definition incorporates comments submitted over the years by a wide variety of stakeholders, including the Alliance.
Now that HUD’s definition is finalized, communities will need to make adjustments to their homeless systems in order to implement the new definition and use it to help end homelessness. We think the new definition will lead to improvements. But to understand fully why it’s good for ending homelessness, you need to first understand what the new definition changes.
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.