Sen Obama Introduces Bill to Prevent Veterans Homelessness

Act would launch pilot program to expand veterans housing, supportive services

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL)yesterday introduced the Veterans Homelessness Prevention Act , which would launch an innovate pilot program to pair housing for at-risk veterans and veteran families with supportive services in an effort to prevent veterans from falling into homelessness.

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, over the course of 2006, there were approximately 495,400 homeless veterans. Although it may take years for veterans to fall into homelessness, hundreds of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have already found themselves in this situation and, based on reported VA estimates, 1,500 seemed at high risk of becoming homeless. This bill will create housing targeted at veteran families and pair the housing with needed critical services such as mental health counseling, financial planning, and employment training. This bill is co-sponsored by Senators John Kerry(D-MA) and Robert Menendez (D-NJ). Congressmen Al Green (D-TX) plans to introduce companion legislation in the House of Representatives next week.

“Our veterans served this country with honor, and we must not turn our backs on them when they return home,” Senator Obama said. “It’s simply unacceptable that these heroes put their lives on the line for our country and come home to find themselves without jobs, without affordable housing, and lacking the services we owe their sacrifice. In our great nation we must do more for our veterans, and this bill will go a long way in meeting our commitment to these veterans. I thank my colleagues in the Senate and the House for supporting this legislation, as well as our many outside partners committed to this issue. We’ll fight to get this passed quickly.”

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, veterans only comprise 11 percent of the adult population but 26 percent of the homeless population. While one of the primary causes for homelessness in this country is the result of a lack of affordable housing, many returning veterans face other significant risk factors, including high unemployment rates and psychological injuries. Evidence shows that not treating these lessvisible wounds of war can result in homelessness.

The Veterans Homelessness Prevention Act would establish a pilot program within the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) to combine housing for at-risk veterans and veteran families with more robust supportive services in an effort to prevent this population from falling into homelessness. The legislation authorizes $26 million for pilot programs managed by nonprofits and consumer cooperatives to assist veteran families that might otherwise become homeless with critical services such as mental health counseling, financial planning and employment and training.

This legislation is supported by the Corporation for Supportive Housing, Give US Your Poor: The Campaign to End Homelessness, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, National AIDS Housing Coalition, National Alliance to End Homelessness, National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, National Coalition for the Homeless, National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty, National Low Income Housing Coalition, National Network for Youth, National Policyand Advocacy Council on Homelessness, Veterans for America, Catholic Charities USA, and Veterans for Common Sense.