The Trump administration announced that the homeless veteran population decreased by more than 5% in the last year and has dropped nearly in half since 2010. Before a slight uptick in 2017, the number of homeless veterans had fallen for 6 consecutive years.
The Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs have worked together to end veteran homelessness since the Obama era, in 2010, announced a goal of ending the problem completely within 5 years. According to the government’s count, there are now about 38,000 homeless veterans.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson pointed to the HUD-VA Supportive Housing Program as playing a key role in the progress. It combines HUD’s rental assistance offerings with VA’s case management and clinical services. More than 4,000 homeless veterans found permanent housing through the program during the last year.
Carson isn’t putting a specific timeline in place for the Trump administration to end the problem entirely, instead, he’s saying the goal is to end it “as soon as possible.”
Officials say the issue remains intractable because veterans have fallen out of the system.
“It’s a difficult problem because not every homeless veteran is coming to us and saying, ‘Please help me’”, Carson said. By focusing on both offering a home and VA’s extensive service, the Secretary said the government can continue to make progress.
“Today we have a story that is getting better,” VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said. “It’s not good enough, but it’s better.” He added VA has not yet identified all the veterans in need of help because many have not been in contact with the VA for more than a decade.
Since 2010, 3 states and 64 individual communities have said they have ended veteran homelessness, 21 of those communities in 2017. The officials said the Trump administration has brought a renewed focus on assisting local efforts to tackle the problem.
“We focus instead on equipping communities to set their own goals and ambitious goals, really grounded in their realities and then doing everything we can at the federal level to support them and achieve those goals,” U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Executive Director Matthew Dougherty said.
Wilkie stressed the importance of tackling an array of issues that affect veterans, like the opioid crisis and mental health care—in conjunction with homelessness. He added that President Trump signed a measure into law last year that provided more veteran access to private sector care has helped direct resources to the “glaring needs” across the country.
“Evidence-based practices work to end veteran homelessness, and we recognize and applaud that this progress has been made in the face of an affordable housing crisis,” Kathryn Monet, CEO of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans said. “Any decrease is commendable, but senior leadership at VA can and must do more to encourage progress across the country.”