Over the past several years, our nation’s progress on veteran homelessness has been one of the most important success stories in the effort to end homelessness. But earlier this month, an annual count of homelessness in the U.S. reminded us that the job isn’t done, and we can’t slow down.
According to the 2017 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, recently released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there was a 1.5 percent increase this year in the number of veterans experiencing homelessness.
Although increases in just 14 states drove the overall rise in veteran homelessness, the good news is that 36 states and the District of Columbia continued to see reductions. And we cannot forget that, to date, three states (Connecticut, Delaware, and Virginia) and 57 communities nationwide have ended veteran homelessness.
There’s a very good reason for that success: we know which programs work.
The HUD-Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program have been critical to this success. They’ve proven to connect homeless veterans and their families to rapid rehousing and permanent supportive housing, respectively.
Implemented broadly, HUD-VASH, SSVF, and other services (e.g., employment, outreach, transitional housing, and substance use treatment) could end veteran homelessness nationally. Bolstering these programs is a cornerstone of any bold approach to ending veteran homelessness.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) recently recognized the importance of HUD-VASH when it reversed a decision to reallocate HUD-VASH case management funding to other programs—a reallocation that would have put vulnerable veterans and their families at risk of becoming homeless again.
None of the progress toward ending veteran homelessness would have been possible without the powerful partnership and leadership of the VA—and its commitment to proven evidence-based programs.
As we work to reverse this year’s increase, we look forward to continuing our work with the VA, and helping to inform its important efforts.