The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has allocated an additional $60 million for permanent housing and support services for homeless veterans nationwide, including supportive housing vouchers for 170 veterans receiving care at Veterans Affairs medical centers in East Tennessee.
Announced Wednesday in Washington by HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Eric Shinseki, secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the funding will be awarded to public housing agencies that partner with VA hospitals across the country in the HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing voucher program.
Judy Fowler, director of community relations for the Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Mountain Home, said the local HUD-VASH allocation will cover a service area that stretches from Johnson City to Oak Ridge.
Locally, Fowler said, the program works in partnership with the Johnson City Housing Authority and other housing authorities in the region to provide permanent housing and case management services to help homeless veterans overcome the barriers to independent living.
“The local housing authorities manage the housing and we provide case managers to help veterans with services,” including substance abuse and mental health counseling, job training and employment and referrals to other government- and community-based resources that can help veterans maintain their independence.
“It’s a great program,” Fowler said. “Housing is an issue, and rent and utility deposits are difficult for veterans if they don’t have a job. This program really gives them a leg up.”
Fowler said the HUD-VASH program has been operating locally for the past two or three years and was launched as part of a HUD and VA initiative to end homelessness among veterans by 2015.
In a news release announcing the new funding, the government reported the program has provided housing vouchers and support services to 48,385 veterans since 2008, and currently there are 42,557 formerly homeless veterans living in public housing because of the program.
“Our veterans have answered the call of duty. That’s why our nation has its own duty to help homeless servicemen and women rejoin the very communities they have given so much to protect,” Donovan said. “These grants make it possible to help more veterans obtain housing, bringing us steps closer to our goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015.”
Shinseki said the HUD-VASH vouchers are “a critical resource to accomplish” the departments’ shared goal of ending veterans’ homelessness.
VAMC Director Charlene Ehret said, “With programs like HUD-VASH, we will end veteran homeless by 2015 in East Tennessee one veteran at a time.”
The funding announced Wednesday is part of $75 million in HUD funding awarded this year for housing programs for homeless veterans. According to the HUD, more funding for the program will be announced this summer.
Twenty-four-hour “point-in-time” counts of the nation’s homeless population conducted annually by HUD show homelessness among veterans declined 7.2 percent between 2011 and 2012, and has fallen 17.2 percent since 2009.
The 2012 point-in-time count identified 62,619 homeless veterans in a nationwide survey conducted in a single 24-hour period in January of that year.