While Veteran homelessness declined nationally by 46 percent since 2010, there was nearly a 2 percent increase in 2017. That has led VA leaders to call on Americans for help in ending veteran homelessness in their communities.
About 40,000 Veterans are homeless in the U.S. and any sign of an increase means the VA needs to rethink its approach to combating the problem, VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin told members of Congress last month. The key, he said, is getting veterans employed and into sustainable housing.
MOAA is committed to ending Veteran homelessness and much of that work happens at the chapter level, said retired Marine Corps Lt. Col. Aniela Szymanski, MOAA’s director of government relations for Veterans benefits
“MOAA chapters across the nation have donated their time, energy, and money to help homeless Veterans in their local communities,” Szymanski said. “Their work is selfless and inspiring. It takes that type of community engagement in cooperation with action by Congress to fund programs and provide the right type of resources to prevent and end Veteran homelessness for good.”
Here’s how you can help end Veteran homelessness in your own community.
1. Push for housing options
Veterans need access to affordable housing, so encourage local property owners to consider ways they can help. Some Veterans may be eligible for the Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing program, so you can encourage veterans to check that out, too.
HUD-VASH is a collaborative program between HUD and the VA that combines HUD housing vouchers with VA supportive services to help homeless Veterans and their families find and sustain permanent housing. (HUD photo)
2. Learn their names
Veterans in need of housing don’t always know where to turn. Let them know you’re there to help. Connect with them and learn their names. Share that list with your networks so no veteran falls through the cracks.
3. Help them navigate the system
There are housing navigators that can help Veterans complete paperwork and other complex tasks as they search for permanent housing. The VA has a toolkit to help guide them in the right direction. You can access that here.
4. Help provide supplies
Veterans who find homes need mattresses, small appliances and other household items. Help collect the items or check with VA Voluntary Service and local homeless coordinators to see if they know where you can find them.
5. Help provide move-in costs
Veterans often need cash to cover security deposits or rental fees before they can move into a new place. Check with local organizations that might offer programs to help Veterans cover these costs.
6. Help Veterans get jobs
Encourage local businesses leaders to advertise job openings at their local VA medical centers. Employers can work with VA community employment coordinators there to post jobs and set up interviews with qualified candidates.
You also can help Veterans get to and from interviews or jobs by hooking them up with free bus and train passes, which some Veterans’ service organizations provide.
7. Take the challenge
The VA is launching Project CHALENG – Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education and Networking Groups – and they need your input. The assessment helps unite veterans with local advocates and service providers. The goal: to learn how best to meet the needs of homeless vets. Sign up for Project CHALENG here.