First lady Michelle Obama waves as she and Ty Pennington, host of Extreme Makeover Home Edition, enter the Jubilee House during the taping of an episode in Fayetteville, N.C., Thursday, July 21, 2011. (Gerry Broome | The Associated Press)
For their determination to put an end to veterans living on the streets, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama will receive the highest honor given to homeless advocates.
The Obamas were chosen to get this year’sJerald Washington Memorial Founders’ Award, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV), and Barack Obama is the first person — in history — to receive the award more than once.
Barack Obama is tackling the issue with his “Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness,” an initiative that aims to end chronic and veteran homelessness by 2015. He’s working to meet this goal by mainstreaming housing, health, education and human service programs.
On any given night last January, 67,495 homeless veterans were sleeping on the streets, a 56 percent decline since the president took office, according to the Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress.
First Lady Michelle Obama, center, examines vegetables grown by #Somali immgrant #KhadijaMusame, second from right, as interpreter #BilalMuya, right, farm coordinator #AmyLint, second from left, and #DrRobertRoss ,
VA and HUD announce funding for homeless veterans
The departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development announced $7.8 million in funding Tuesday that the agencies say will provide housing and clinical services for 1,120 homeless veterans.
The funding for HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers will be used by local public housing agencies across the country. The vouchers have been a key weapon in the Obama administration’s vow to end veteran’s homelessnessby the end of 2015.
“These vouchers are helping America end veterans’ homelessness one veteran at a time until we see not one veteran living on the street,”HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan said in a statement.
The most recent available figures based on a national count found 62,619 veterans homeless on a single night in January 2012, a drop of 17.2 percent since January 2009.
Veterans Affairs claims progress in ending homelessness among vets
Halfway into an ambitious five-year campaignto end homelessness among veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs says it has made enough progress that the goal is within reach, even as a new generation of veterans returns from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Making aggressive use of a voucher program, Veterans Affairs has housed more than 33,000 veterans in the past 21/2 years. It did so by changing its longtime policy of requiring homeless veterans to be successfully treated for substance abuse and mental ailments before being given apartments.
The shift in approach means that there is “a better opportunity to end veterans’ homelessness by 2015 than at any time in the past,” said Susan Angell, VA’s director of homeless initiatives.
Although many agencies, including the Department of Housing and Urban Development, have adopted a housing-first strategy, Veterans Affairs had resisted. “Folks were initially concerned about the safety aspects of it,” Angell said. “We wanted to make sure they were clean and sober.”
VA and HUD want enough funds to issue 60,000 vouchers at the rate of 10,000 a year through 2014.
The effort comes as tens of thousands of troops who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are leaving military service and entering an often bleak job market.
“For this new generation of veterans, we are very concerned,” Angell said.
Her agency estimates that more than 20,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have been homeless at some point during the past five years and that their numbers are rising.
- Number of homeless vets drops, but VA goal might be out of reach (stripes.com)
- VA dedicates another $4.9 million toward ending veterans homelessness (washingtonpost.com)
- VA and HUD Announce Twenty-Four Percent Reduction in Vets Homelessness since 2010 (veteranstoday.com)
- Homelessness continues decline in US, but Maine sees increase, according to HUD (bangordailynews.com)
- Event aims to connect homeless veterans with services (aurorasentinel.com)
- The Homeless Veteran Outside NLC (citiesspeak.org)