Senator Blumenthal Joins Calls to Protect Homeless Veterans Program from Cuts

(Washington, DC) -- Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) today joined Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and other Senate colleagues to call on Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell to oppose cuts that have been proposed to the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Administration Supportive Housing vouchers program. These cuts would result in approximately 10,000 homeless veterans across the country being left without a way to obtain housing.

"We owe our veterans nothing short of our full support once they have returned home. These proposed cuts to a proven program that aims to curb the number of homeless veterans are simply unacceptable," said Blumenthal. "We must keep faith with our veterans and honor the sacrifices that they and their families have made for us and I will continue to speak out against these irrational cuts that give a hand up to these brave men and women."

"These veterans have already sacrificed to serve our country and we should not ask them to sacrifice again while other sources of saving remains," the letter states. "As you continue the difficult task of negotiating the budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, we ask that you reject any proposal to eliminate the next round of funding for the HUD-VASH program."

 

The full text of the letter is below.

April 8, 2011

Majority Leader Harry Reid                                                  Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
522 Hart Senate Office Bldg.                                                361-A Russell Senate Office Bldg.
United States Senate                                                         United States Senate
Washington, DC  20510                                                       Washington, DC  20510

Dear Leader Reid and Minority Leader McConnell:

As negotiations continue during the imminent shut-down of the federal government, we write to urge you to protect funding for our nation’s homeless veterans. As you know, H.R. 1 eliminates the next round of funding for the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Administration Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers. This would leave approximately 10,000 homeless veterans across the country without a means to secure housing and should not be a point of compromise in negotiations. These veterans have already sacrificed to serve our country and we should not ask them to sacrifice again while other sources of saving remain.

The HUD-VASH program is a collaborative effort between the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to help homeless veterans obtain and maintain housing. Through the program, local VA facilities identify veterans in need of housing assistance and refer them to state housing authorities identified by HUD, which distributes vouchers for Section 8 public housing. These vouchers are roughly valued at $7,500 and help veterans afford rent. Through the program, the VA also offers supportive services to address mental health and substance abuse issues, locate and negotiate housing options, as well as counseling, job training and education services.

HUD and the VA recently published a study on veteran homelessness. Although veterans comprise roughly 8% of the total U.S. population, they accounted for approximately 12% of all homeless persons during a 2009 point-in-time snapshot. The study estimates that in 2009, 136,000 veterans – or about 1 in every 168 veterans – spent at least one night in an emergency shelter or transitional housing program.

Both the Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness and the VA Five-Year Plan to End Veteran Homelessness call for ending veteran homelessness by 2015 and identify permanent supportive housing as an important resource. We support this goal and believe that the HUD-VASH program is critical to reaching it.

Since FY 2008, Congress has appropriated $75 million for the HUD-VASH program, which has supported the delivery of 10,000 vouchers a year, for a current total of 30,000 vouchers. The Administration has testified that we must reach 60,000 vouchers if we are to end chronic veteran homelessness. By including $75 million for FY 2011, we will stay on track to meet this goal. With two ongoing wars, and the likely possibility of a growing veteran population, we can’t afford to eliminate these services.

The March report from HUD and VA officials shows that of the 30,000 vouchers currently available, more than 27,500 have been awarded to homeless veterans, with more than 20,000 who now have secured homes, and only 3,800 actively searching for housing. In fact, the HUD-VASH program has reduced the number of chronically homeless veterans by about 50% in just the last three years. Furthermore, studies have shown that providing people experiencing chronic homelessness with permanent supportive housing actually saves taxpayers money.

As you continue the difficult task of negotiating the budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, we ask that you reject any proposal to eliminate the next round of funding for the HUD-VASH program, and that instead you include $75 million for the program for FY 2011.


Sincerely,

/S/

Chris Coons
United States Senate

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