Brown, Senate Majority Leader: Republican Proposal Could Undermine 10,000 U.S. Veterans Who Have Struggled with Homelessness

Through Help of HUD/VASH Program, Ohio Veteran Went from the Streets to College Graduate
Brown Releases Regional Data on Utilization of Voucher Which Has Helped 750 Ohio Vets in the Last Three Years

WASHINGTON, D.C. – March 16, 2011 – (RealEstateRama) — With the current Republican budget proposal eliminating a successful grant program that could leave thousands of veterans on the streets, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) held a news conference call today to urge the continuation of the program to prevent veteran homelessness.

“No returning servicemember should have to face homelessness. The men and women of the Armed Forces have been made a promise that if they defend our country, a grateful nation will provide them with services and benefits they have earned,” Brown said. “Servicemembers across Ohio and the nation, face too many barriers upon return from active duty. We’re prepared to negotiate and reduce the deficit responsibly.  But we won’t balance the budget on the backs of those who have already given so much to our nation.”

“We have a sacred responsibility to take care of those who risked their lives to defend this nation,” said Reid. “Taking a meat axe to an initiative that keeps Nevada veterans off the street is not just reckless, it’s immoral.  We need to cut wasteful spending like tens of billions of dollars in government giveaways to oil companies making record profits as well as tax breaks for corporations that ship American jobs overseas.  However, the Republicans’ proposal is too extreme, trying to balance the budget on the backs of our men and women in uniform.”

Brown and Reid were joined on the call by John Paul Hill, an Ohio veteran who, after being discharged from the Army, was left living on the streets and turned to drug abuse. Now, with the help of Housing Urban Development- Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) grant program, and the support he’s received from the VA, he is now enrolled in college and on track to graduate with two degrees.

The (HUD-VASH) program provides Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) rental assistance for homeless veterans along with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA provides these services for participating veterans at VA medical centers (VAMCs) and community-based outreach clinics.

Brown released regional information showing that HUD-VASH has kept 750 Ohio veterans off the streets in the last three years. Ohio received 280 vouchers in 2008, 245 in 2009 and 225 in 2010; totaling 750.

The Republican spending proposal targets homeless veterans by eliminating funding for new HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers. HUD-VASH vouchers are funded as a subset of the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Section 8 program with services provided through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). It is specifically designed to help homeless veterans secure safe and permanent housing, especially the chronically homeless. HUD-VASH is the nation’s largest permanent supportive housing program for veterans. It has also been an important tool for serving female veterans, and those with families. Under the program, the VA determines veteran eligibility and then refers veterans to a local public housing authority for a HUD voucher. In addition to the housing voucher component, the VA provides supportive case management services to each voucher recipient, including assistance negotiating leases with landlords, help securing counseling, and assistance finding job training and education programs.

The Senate Democratic alternative fully funds 10,000 new HUD-VASH vouchers, keeping the nation on the path towards fulfilling the President’s mission to end veteran and chronic homelessness by 2015. Since FY 2008, HUD-VASH has been level funded each year at $75 million. Over the last three years, nearly 30,000 vouchers have been awarded to homeless veterans and Senate Democrats aim to bring the total up to 40,000 vouchers awarded by the end of FY 2011. However, HUD-VASH is now in jeopardy because House Republicans zeroed out funding for new vouchers in H.R. 1. HUD-VASH is a key component to ending homelessness among veterans in the next four years. Eliminating funding for this vital lifeline prevents thousands of veterans who bravely served our nation and protected our freedoms from the opportunity to access the support they need and rebuild their lives.

Veterans are overrepresented in the homeless population. For the first time ever, HUD and VA recently published an authoritative analysis of the extent and nature of homelessness among veterans. Although veterans comprise roughly 8 percent of the total U.S. population, they accounted for approximately 12% of all homeless persons counted nationwide during a 2009 point-in-time snapshot.

On a given night in 2009, nearly 76,000 veterans were homeless while approximately 136,000 veterans spent at least one night in a shelter during that year. According to the HUD-VA study, “During a 12 month period in 2009, an estimated 136,000 veterans – or about 1 in every 168 veterans – spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.” Furthermore, “Low-income veterans are twice as likely to become homeless compared to all low-income adults.” [Veterans' Supplement to HUD’s 2009 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR), released 2/11.]

Lauded by Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki as “By far, the most effective option for housing Veterans,” the HUD-VASH program has a proven track record of transitioning homeless veterans into stable, permanent housing. Information compiled since the beginning of FY 2008 shows that veterans who received HUD-VASH vouchers had a lower risk of returning to homelessness than those who did not participate in the voucher program and instead only received intensive case management or standard VA assistance. The evaluation also shows that over the long-term, HUD-VASH recipients had both improved housing and improved substance abuse outcomes when compared to veterans who did not participate in the program. Studies have shown that providing people experiencing chronic homelessness with permanent supportive housing actually saves taxpayers money. [U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness “Opening Doors” Announcement, 6/22/10; CRS Report RL34024, 11/4/10; National Alliance to End Homelessness.]

In the last three years, HUD-VASH has helped nearly 30,000 veterans by providing vouchers and assistance to help them get back on their feet and Senate Democrats are committed to continuing and fully funding this effective and successful initiative. Without HUD-VASH vouchers, thousands of our nation’s veterans will have one fewer tool to help them get off the streets and successfully rebuild their lives. Everyone deserves safe and stable housing, and HUD-VASH vouchers provide our nation’s brave veterans with the opportunity to once again become self sufficient members of their community.

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