FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 10, 2009
SCHUMER REVEALS: NEW YORK FACES GROWING CRISIS OF HOMELESS VETERANS - MORE THAN 10,000 IN UPSTATE NY ALONE
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer today revealed that there are nearly 12,000 homeless veterans living in Upstate New York, and that the problem will likely worsen in the coming years as soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan return home and recent veterans continue to struggle with untreated mental health and substance abuse problems. Schumer today unveiled his plan to provide $200 million to help communities, veteran’s groups and NGOs build housing, or rehabilitate or purchase existing housing structures to provide supportive living for veterans that are currently homeless. Such housing communities would provide substance abuse and mental health counseling, vocational and employment training, transportation, child care and other services to help veterans live independently. Schumer’s plan would also provide 20,000 rental assistance vouchers for veterans across the country.
Schumer said that the legislation was an issue that former-Senator Obama fought for in the last Congress, and is co-sponsored this by Senators Dick Durbin, Sherrod Brown and Robert Menendez.
“One homeless veteran is one too many,” Schumer said. “Groups across the country have struggled to help fill the housing gap for New York’s homeless veterans, but our federal programs fall short, in large part because they lack the resources necessary to do the job. The legislation I am pushing will help to provide immediate adequate housing for our nation’s homeless heroes. Our veterans have served our country, and in return we must serve them. The least we can do is make sure they have a roof over their head in the nation they fought to protect.”
Counting the number of homeless veterans is an inexact science, as the number of homeless can change from one day to the next and because there is no uniform effort to collect data. The National Alliance to End Homelessness, which combines information from the U.S. Veterans Administration, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, local community surveys, and census data to approximate homelessness across the country, estimates that there are 11,945 homeless veterans in Upstate New York. Here is how the numbers break down across the state:
· In the Capital Region, on any given day there are an estimated 1,500 homeless veterans.
· In Central New York, on any given day there are an estimated 1,500 homeless veterans.
· In the Hudson Valley, on any given day there are an estimated 2,700 homeless veterans.
· In the North Country, on any given day there are an estimated 1,000 homeless veterans.
· In the Rochester-Finger Lakes Region, on any given day there are an estimated 1,600 homeless veterans.
· In the Southern Tier, on any given day there are an estimated 1,100 homeless veterans.
· In Western New York, on any given day there are an estimated 2,400 homeless veterans.
According to a National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH) report released in 2007, veterans are twice as likely as other Americans to be chronically homeless, and the primary reason for that statistic is the lack of affordable housing.
Schumer said that the federal government has historically not done nearly enough to counteract the causes of veterans’ homelessness or ensure that the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) has the resources it needs to secure housing for low-income or mentally ill veterans. The VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) were starved of funding under the Bush administration, leaving them unable to handle the increasing wave of new veterans who may find themselves on the streets or in a detrimental situation. Roughly 45 percent of participants in the VA’s homeless programs suffer from mental illness and more than three out of four have a substance abuse problem.
The NAEH report indicates that in order to significantly reduce chronic homelessness among veterans, permanent supportive housing needs to be increased by 25,000 units and the number of vouchers available to veterans needs to be expanded to 20,000 up from only 10,000. Providing 20,000 vouchers would reduce homelessness amongst veterans by 10 percent.
To help provide much-needed housing for homeless vets, Schumer today unveiled his plan to establish a $200 million assistance program for community and nonprofit organizations to purchase, build or rehabilitate housing for low-income veterans. The organizations would also provide supportive services including substance abuse and mental health counseling, vocational and employment training, transportation, child care and other services to help veterans live independently.
The act would also expand and make permanent the highly successful HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program, which provides permanent housing subsidies and case management services to homeless veterans with mental and addictive disorders. Studies show that permanent supportive housing is a cost effective approach that helps people who have intensive needs maintain stable housing, access health and substance abuse treatment, and eventually recover.
The HUD-VASH program would be expanded under the act by authorizing 20,000 vouchers annually and making the program permanent. The HUD–VASH program combines HUD Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Veterans Affairs at its medical centers and in the community.
The legislation would also create a Special Assistant for Veterans Affairs at HUD to coordinate services and housing with Veterans Affairs. It would require that public housing authorities come up with plans to address the needs of homeless veterans as part of their five-year comprehensive housing affordability strategy.
As part of his plan to help reduce homelessness among veterans, Schumer is also calling for additional funding to help improve the quality of data collected on homeless people and programs. Each year the Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education and Networking Groups (CHALENG) Project publishes a report administered by both local VA staff and community participants that provides an estimate for the number of homeless veterans. Although the surveys are informative, they are not federally funded and not administered in a uniform manner across local VAs. Schumer noted that better data can help policymakers formulate strategies to address homelessness. As a result, he is proposing that additional funding be allocated to the CHALENG Project to ensure that the most accurate data is collected to generate the most effective strategies.
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