VA to Outline Plans to End Veteran Homelessness
By Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael J. Carden
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 2, 2009 Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki is expected to unveil a five-year plan to end homelessness among veterans as he, other VA officials and community outreach specialists come together for the Homeless Veteran Summit here tomorrow.
Shinseki’s team has made addressing homelessness a leading issue since he took charge of VA in January. Department officials estimate that about 131,000 veterans are homeless today in the United States, down from the 2003 estimate of nearly 200,000.
In several speeches this year, Shinseki has noted that to end homelessness among veterans, VA and the nation must do better in terms of psychological health care, education and employment opportunities, and addressing substance abuse.
VA programs such as the Post 9/11 GI Bill, which became law Aug. 1, may not have an immediate impact on homelessness, but better education opportunities can decrease homelessness in the future.
“To do this well, we’ll have to attack the entire downward spiral that ends in homelessness,” Shinseki said in an August speech at the American Legion convention in Louisville, Ky. He cited the need to offer veterans education, jobs and safe housing, and to treat depression and substance abuse. “We must do it all,” he said.
Shinseki’s latest initiative, launched last month, has a more direct impact on homelessness. On Oct. 6, the secretary announced more than $17 million in grants will be shared among 19 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico to create more than 1,100 beds for homeless veterans. The transitional housing will give veterans the leverage they need to access VA health care and other benefits they need to lead productive lives again, Shinseki said in an Oct. 6 statement.
This week’s Homeless Summit is likely to focus on similar indirect and immediate measures to meet the VA’s five-year goal to get veterans off the streets. Officials said the summit’s agenda will promote interagency and community partnerships to end homelessness through a variety of working groups and other sessions. The summit also will raise awareness and help advocates articulate key components of the five-year plan, and will give outreach organizations more tools for prevention in their local communities, officials added.
The two-day summit begins tomorrow morning, and Shinseki is expected to give his keynote address at 1 p.m.