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What’s keeping veteran homelessness rates high in some areas?

Even one veteran unable to find a place to live is one too many. Putting numbers on the crisis of veteran homelessness is a valuable way to see whether a resolution to the problem is in sight and whether housing efforts are moving in the right direction.

Near the end of every year, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development releases its annual statistics on the state of homelessness in America, which includes data and analysis on, among other things, homeless veterans. This year’s HUD report showed how starkly different areas of the country struggle or succeed at solving this crisis. General homelessness rose in 2017 compared to 2016, but startling patterns have emerged that show how minor regional declines across the country have been offset by precipitous increases in a few locations. According to HUD, cost-of-living increases in already expensive areas are a major culprit.

A troubling dichotomy

Whether it’s becoming easier or more difficult for homeless veterans to find stable accommodations is a complex question. The answer largely depends on location. Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin expressed in a press release that the agency is pleased with its ability to decrease the amount of veteran homelessness in a majority of communities. Despite those declines, however, the national rate of veteran homelessness is up 1.5 percent year over year. Which areas are dragging these numbers up?

HUD reported that one region in particular is putting strain on veterans looking for housing: Los Angeles County, specifically the city of Los Angeles. Veteran homelessness in that county rose 64 percent between January 2016 and January 2017. Such a huge increase in such a populous county appears to have pushed the national rate upward. Without Los Angeles in the figures, veteran homelessness fell 3.2 percent over the past year.

Why? A sheer lack of affordable housing is failing Los Angeles veterans.

VA cut averted

HUD not only measures levels of veteran homelessness. It is also one of the organizations handling programs to improve conditions and reduce the number of vets with no shelter to turn to.

Since 2010, the number of homeless veterans nationwide has fallen by more than 480,000, if accounting for vets and their families. HUD stated that its cooperation with the VA has enabled this massive change. But until recently, the VA planned to significantly cut funding to a HUD-assisted housing voucher program for veterans, a measure now abandoned after public backlash. Politico reported that the $460 million program would have basically ended had the VA submitted its budget as initially proposed. Only significant outcry and criticism got the agency to walk back its decision.

Messaging on homelessness reduction programs has wavered in recent months. The decision to cut the program seems to have been made unilaterally by the VA in September without consultation with HUD. Then, on Nov. 27, Shulkin and HUD Secretary Ben Carson stated they were committed to ending veteran homelessness, even speaking at a shelter. Four days later, Dec. 1, they officially stated they were killing the housing program and giving the funds to VA hospitals. Days after, the initiative returned.

Efforts to end veteran homelessness are nowhere near over. Every night, according to this year’s HUD report, an average of over 40,000 vets go without shelter. Official programs and affordable housing are important factors in reducing that number in the years to come.

2017-12-28T19:56:32+00:00 December 28th, 2017|Categories: Blog Posts|4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Jason M. Nair March 11, 2018 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    The VA took my pension away when I was already paying all my bills and was current. I was enjoying my life being a stress free veteran. When my pension was stopped for 3 months. I was evicted out of my apartment. CEPS couldn’t give me any of my money to find a place to live. Because it wasn’t under their jurisdiction. CEPS chooses where I live. Not the veteran gets to pick. That’s why I chose to remain in my vehicle. I got tired of dealing with CEPS. They have always failed to pay any bill on time. That’s why I’m homeless. I know that even if I get a place to live they will still give me 240 a week. That’s not nearly enough to actually live. I can’t even be in a relationship to take care of someone or have kids and take care of them with my pension. MY PAYEE JUST TAKES ADVANTAGE OF MY VETERAN STATUS. I hope someone actually reads this and takes note. Before I just give up completely.

    • Matt Terry April 23, 2018 at 7:05 pm - Reply

      Jason,

      Contact the Veterans Affairs office nearest you for the answers you seek.

      -Matt

  2. Debra Eggeman-Steffen May 22, 2018 at 4:13 am - Reply

    Seriously, I feel for you and I have personally found the Veterans Affairs to be useless! I have been homeless since 2004 thanks to the US Army misdiagnosing me on active duty! I was snuck off active duty with injuries and ever got to go through a medical board! Back in civilan world I found I needed surgery and my civilan job would not rehire me! They told me I was a liability! I came back in a cast and crutches! Shortly after that I lost full custody of my only daughter to my mentally and physically abusive ex spouse! The judge said, “You could be deployed and how can you financial suport her! Discrimination for service to my country! What for serving I do not deserve my daughter! Then I lost my home shortly after that because my Army Reserve Unit Administrator failed to fill out 1 page requesting my incapacitation pay! This went on for months and I lost my home! I lived in my car from 2004 – 2008! My health started to go to he’ll in a hand basket and has gotten worst! Thanks to the active duty doctor he caused me more permanet injuries failing to diagnosis me correctly! 2008 a Vietnam Veteran swapped me for a vehicle I had for a motor home which I have been living in it ever since! I am still considered homeless because I do not live in a stationary place! For health care stuff it makes it hard! VA only makes my health worse! Thanks to the VA where I was assaulted at the VA in San Diego, CA I now suffer from permanent injuries! The VA has made my life a living nightmare to say the least! So thanks to my country who caused my homeless and tore my family apart! I know what it is like to feel like my country turned it’s back on me! I told my children never join the military! They will not take care of you as they have seen what they have done to me! Again I feel for you! Yeah, I asked the VA for help and got discriminated on my gender, in addition to; was told I should live with a senior citizen so I can help them, the lady who was supposed to help me I explained how am I supposed to remind someone else to take their medication when I cannot even remember when to take my own! I was not about to jeopardize a person’s life just so I van have a roof over my head! That social work also forgot about my physical limitations! I was using a walker at the time and later my muscles got worst as they kept giving out on me and my dizziness and other health issues ended me up in a wheelchair! Heck the VA would not even give mean electric wheelchair! If I wanted to go somewhere I was at the mercy of someone else! I had no freedom! The men had no problems getting electric wheelchairs! They knew I could not push the manual wheelchairs! Jason I really hope you get a permanent place to live some how! God Bless Us all who are Homeless! Amen!

  3. Debra Eggeman-Steffen May 22, 2018 at 4:15 am - Reply

    Should say didn’t even got to go through a medical board!

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