On any given night, nearly 58,000 homeless U.S. veterans are struggling against a new kind of enemy: this winter’s record-breaking frigid temperatures.
But help could be on the way: Last week, the National League of Cities announced the creation of a Homeless Veteran Leadership Network (HVLN) that encourages mayors to ramp up community-level programs to serve veterans in need.
Mirroring the growth of local service efforts backed by the government, the HVLN “connect[s] with existing and emerging efforts in their communities, form community partnerships and offer strong municipal support for strategies that put an end to veteran homelessness,” according to the NLC. The project will target 16 cities, and feature a number of events designed to raise awareness of the plight faced by homeless veterans. And although significant strides are being made, the statistics demonstrate that this war is far from over.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report revealed that out of the 610,042 people who were homeless on a given night in January 2013, 57,849 of them were veterans and of those, “just under 8 percent (4,456) were female.”
“Homeless veterans accounted for just over 12 percent of all homeless adults,” the report found. Although veteran homelessness “has declined by . . . 24 percent since 2010,” high levels remained in several states, including Kansas and Montana, where veterans accounted for “more than 1 in 5 homeless adults.”
Under the current administration, Veterans’ affairs have repeatedly been at the center of federal budget debates. President Obama’s 2015 budget includes a request of $1.6 billion for veterans’ programs, many of which work toward housing stability for homeless and at-risk veterans and their families and include partnerships with community-based organizations.
Meanwhile, last month the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced the availability of an anticipated $9.9 million in grants for nonprofits to develop “community infrastructures” that offer services for homeless veterans suffering from substance abuse and mental disorders.
Operation Renewed Hope Foundation, a charitable organization committed to securing housing for homeless veterans, is a recipient of the federal Supportive Services for Veterans Families grant.
Deborah Snyder, President of ORHF, told The Foundry, “We know firsthand that the [Supportive Services] program, along with several others the VA oversees, is working.” Praising the “unprecedented amount of effort” from the Administration to end veteran homelessness, she added, “We are on target to help more than 80 families this year under this grant alone.”
“While I don’t believe we will eliminate Veteran homelessness by 2015,” Snyder said, referring to the Administration’s stated goal of ending veteran homelessness by next year, “the fact that so many individuals, businesses, and organizations . . . are pushing towards this goal is nothing short of phenomenal.”
As part of this push, on Wednesday, March 19th, at 5 pm, The Heritage Foundation’s Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy will host a screening of the award-winning documentary Veteran Nation, which narrates the experiences of several veterans adjusting to life after war. Critically, this film also explores the range of local opportunities for individuals to get involved with programs supporting these veterans. A panel discussion about these volunteer opportunities will follow the screening.
The men and women of the U.S. Armed forces have served with honor and valor, fighting to defend our freedom. Now, it’s our turn to give back—to make sure that those who stood watch while we slept now have a roof over their heads.