The Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan and Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki announced in a conference call December 12 that homelessness among veterans has declined by nearly 12 percent between January 2010 and January 2011.
Specifically, according to the 2011 supplement to the Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) released December 12, 67,495 veterans were homeless in the United States on a single night in January 2011 – a significant reduction from last year’s single night count of 76,329.
In a release from the VA and HUD, the 12 percent decline keeps the Obama administration on track to meet the goal of ending veteran homelessness in 2015. According to Donovan, “In the wake of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression,” the nearly 12 percent reduction in vet homelessness is “nothing less than extraordinary.”
The statements issued by Donovan and Shinseki are not necessarily indicative of Native veterans on reservations and their status as homeless or not homeless. HUD released the “December 2011 Point-in-Time Estimates of Homelessness Assessment Report” that includes counts from emergency shelters, transitional housing programs and other related facilities, but the count does not include the number of homeless veterans on reservations.
With no new figures relating to American Indian veterans available, numbers have been recorded within the past few years. The 2010 Veteran Homelessness supplemental assessment report to congress indicated American Indian and Alaska Native veterans who are poor are two times more likely to be homeless than American Indian and Alaska Native non-veterans who are poor. The 12 percent decline is indicative of good news to all vets regardless of ethnicity.
“This new report is good news for the tens of thousands of veterans we have helped find a home. Our progress in the fight against homelessness has been significant, but our work is not complete until no veteran has to sleep on the street,” Shinseki said. “We have been successful in achieving this milestone due to strong leadership from the president and hard work by countless community organizations and our federal, state, and local partners who are committed to helping veterans and their families get back on their feet.”
Donovan added, “We’re absolutely headed in the right direction as we work to end homelessness amongst those who have served our nation. This significant decline tells us that the Obama administration is on the right path, working together across agencies to target federal resources to produce a sharp and measureable reduction in veteran homelessness.
“As we put forth in the first federal plan to prevent and end homelessness, there’s plenty of work ahead to reach our goal, but these numbers validate the work done by both HUD and VA to reach our nation’s homeless veterans and get them into permanent housing,” Donavan said.
Other statements by Shinseki and Donovan mentioned the VA and HUD has worked with more than 4,000 community agencies and has successfully housed 33,597 veterans with access to health care from the VA.
Shinseki also announced that $100 million in grants will be made available to community agencies to assist an estimated 42,000 veterans and their families from becoming homeless or to help them to make the transition to stable housing.
“The problems that lead to homelessness begin long before veterans and their families are on the streets,” Shinseki said. “By putting more resources into prevention services for those at risk of becoming homeless, we will continue to help more veterans and their families turn their lives around.”