Veteran homelessness going down, says VA

Army veterans Tara Eid and Cassandra Lewis hug at a program for homeless female veterans in Los Angeles. (Photo:
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Trish Anderton

Federal programs have reduced the number of homeless veterans by about 20 percent, the Veterans Affairs department says – and news fans in Washington, D.C. applaud the effort.

According to The Associated Press, VA secretary Eric Shinseki says a report to be released soon will show that the number of vets living on the street has dropped by at least 15,000 since 2009. That’s when Shinseki set an ambitious goal of housing all former service members by 2015.

A drop of 15,000 means there are still 60,000 veterans without a roof over their heads. Officials and analysts say meeting the goal will require billions in additional federal funding as well as expanded programs to treat mental illness, addiction, unemployment and poverty, according to the AP.

In the nation’s capital, a federal grant administered by the D.C. Housing Authority is buying rental vouchers for veterans. A story by WJLA TV has garnered near-universal enthusiasm from 31 commenters on the station’s Facebook page.

“Awesome!” cheers Linda Charest. “Doing the right thing,” writes Sarah Key Burton.

“A veteran should NEVER be homeless or hungry any where in this country anytime!” says Sheryl Mills.

Whit Roberts questions the Housing Authority’s choice of neighborhoods, however, noting that the story shows veterans being taken to an apartment complex in largely low-income Southeast D.C.  “They have selflessly served this nation and laid down their lives for this nation,” he writes. “Is the Southeast the best you can do, DC Housing?!”

But Zebulon M. Clayton stands up for the Southeast: “Have you've been in SE lately? There are homes that are being built and they are beautiful and in good neighborhoods. See for your self before saying something negative.”

The Homeless Veterans Comprehensive Assistance Act of 2001 was designed to coordinate government efforts to tackle the problem. It included steps such as ordering the VA to appoint full-time employees to address homelessness at twenty of its regional offices, and establishing an Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans with representatives from the departments of Labor, Defense, Health and Human Services and Housing and Urban Development.