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VA expands efforts to keep vets off the streets

Jul. 11, 2013 - 07:14PM   |  
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The Department of Veterans Affairs Thursday announced it is tripling to $300 million the investment provided to community groups such as Goodwill Industries, Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army to expand efforts for ending homelessness among veterans and their families.

President Obama vowed in 2009 to end veteran homelessness. Since then, the number of veterans without shelter increased slightly in 2010 to 76,329 and then decreased 18 percent to 62,618 in 2012, according to figures from the VA.

“We’ve made tremendous progress,” says Vincent Kane, VA director of the National Center for Home Veterans. “But we also acknowledge that our work is unfinished.”

The VA has not so far reported a downward trend in homeless issues for younger veterans who served in Iraq or Afghanistan. As of last December — the latest data available, according to the VA — there were 26,531 of them either living on the streets, at risk of losing their homes, staying in temporary housing or receiving federal vouchers to pay for rent. That was an increase from 10,500 in 2010.

The expanded VA support program, known as Supportive Services for Veterans Families, is the “crown jewel” in the fight against veteran homelessness, says Lisa Pape, VA national director of homeless programs.

It funnels grants to local groups that work directly with struggling veterans, helping them cover housing costs, health and child care expenses, transportation needs for getting to work, training and other needs.

Some $100 million was invested last year and Kane says the program assisted 21,500 veterans and 10,000 of their children and has a success rate for keeping them off the streets of 86 percent. The money went to 151 community organizations.

With $300 million this year the program will assist 120,000 veterans through 319 community organizations in all 50 states, either helping those veterans and their families find shelter or keeping them from losing their homes, Kane says.

“We are that point, the midway point, where we need to kind of build both the rescue component as well as the prevention component,” Kane told reporters Thursday.

The VA has remained exempt from budget cutbacks impacting broad sectors of the federal government.

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