WASHINGTON, D.C. – With cooler temperatures approaching, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), ranking member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, outlined legislation to improve programs for homeless veterans and their families. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, about 12 percent of the adult homeless population is comprised of veterans.
“It’s our responsibility to ensure that every veteran has a place to call home,” Brown said. “That’s why I’m working to pass the Veteran Housing Stability Act of 2015 – which would make meaningful improvements to services for homeless veterans and give more veterans access to permanent housing. Even one veteran on the street means Congress isn’t doing enough to tackle this problem.”
The Obama Administration has made tackling veterans homelessness a priority. And while homelessness among veterans has declined 33 percent since 2010, too many veterans remain on the streets. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), 49,933 veterans were homeless during a “point-in-time” survey conducted on a single night in January 2014.
During a news conference call today, Brown was joined by Susan Wren, Support Services Specialist at WSOS Community Action Commission, to discuss how the Veteran Housing Stability Act of 2015 would increase veterans’ access to permanent housing options. Specifically, the bill would:
- Encourage landlords to rent to veterans: The bill would require the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to collaborate with HUD, public housing authorities, tribally-designated housing entities, and other entities – such as realtors, landlords, property managers, and developers – to encourage more landlords to rent to veterans.
- Provide grants for organizations that support formerly-homeless veterans: The bill would require the VA to carry out a program to increase housing stability and retention by providing grants to community organizations that provide after-care to formerly homeless veterans. This provision would allow communities to repurpose existing transitional housing capacity to serve other needs, such as permanent housing opportunities for veterans.
- Modify a VA program that sells homes from VA’s foreclosure inventory at a discount to nonprofit agencies: Currently these organizations can only acquire properties from the VA to use as transitional housing for homeless veterans. This provision would broaden uses to include housing stability for veterans who are very low-income, at-risk of becoming homeless, or homeless.
- Expand the definition of a “homeless veteran”: This bill would expand “homeless veteran” to provide additional benefits to veterans in need. The bill would include a veteran or veteran’s family fleeing domestic or dating violence, sexual assault, stalking, or other dangerous or life-threatening conditions in their current housing situation.
- Ensure continued research and evaluation into efficacy of VA programs: The bill would set national performance targets for the VA’s housing placement rates, and would base continued funding for grantees on merit-based factors like the grantee’s permanent housing placement rate. It would also codify the VA’s National Center on Homelessness to guarantee its continued role in researching the most cost-effective approaches to ending veteran homelessness and disseminating them to the field.
- Improve outreach to veterans: The bill would create a new program to target homeless veterans who are health care “super-utilizers” for more intensive case management interventions, allowing VA to leverage existing data to improve the efficacy of its assertive community outreach teams.