By Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. CardenJune 8, 2010
WASHINGTON, June 8, 2010 - A program announced last week by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will provide $58.6 million to get homeless veterans off the streets this year.
Vouchers will be provided to some 8,000 displaced veterans and their families across the country through the HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) Program, offering long-lasting support to the housing needs of veterans, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan announced June 3.
"Though they served and sacrificed so much for our country, too many of our veterans find themselves on the streets and in homeless shelters," Donovan said. "Thankfully, these vouchers will provide a more-permanent solution to housing and services these veterans need."
The program is in its third year and is a joint endeavor between HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Ending homelessness among veterans is a top priority for VA. The issue has been the topic of numerous public forums and working groups since VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki took the department's helm in January 2009.
Shinseki announced the framework for a plan in November that would end homelessness among veterans within five years. The plan outlined his desire to attack homelessness at the top of the "downward spiral," addressing mental health, substance abuse and unemployment before veterans become homeless.
VA estimates that more than 131,000 veterans and their families are without homes. Without the help of other federal departments, government agencies and community outreach, Shinseki's goals can't be met, he said in a statement released by HUD.
However, efforts like HUD's program are "a critical, long-term investment" toward helping those already homeless, Shinseki said. The program is the largest permanent housing initiative in the nation.
"The most-effective option to providing veterans permanent shelter is HUD-VA Supportive Housing," he said. "We owe determination that matches theirs as we work to end veteran homelessness. [The program] is immensely important and effective to reaching our goal."
Homeless veterans can receive the rental vouchers through their local VA medical center. Case managers at each hospital refer eligible veterans to local housing authorities, which will then assist veterans in finding adequate homes.
Eligibility for the vouchers is determined on a case-by-case basis, and requirements vary by metropolitan area, Brian Sullivan, a spokesman for HUD, explained in an interview today.
The dollar amount allocated to each local housing agency is based on the number of reported homeless veterans and the fair market rental system. The individual vouchers will cover at least 70 percent of a veteran's rent. Also, once veterans are deemed eligible for the voucher, they stay in HUD's voucher system until they can be financially stable.
"Veterans will permanently have support and housing through this program," Sullivan said. "That is until they're able to stand on their own and continue to increase their income, which is our ultimate goal."
HUD plans to announce another $17 million for an additional 1,355 rental vouchers next month as well as 400 project-based vouchers later this summer, he said.