Despite progress in the Obama administration’s goal to end veterans’ homelessness by 2015, a new Veteran Administration’s inspector general’s report finds that the effort is hampered by a lack of program safety.
The report examining the department’s Grant Per Diem Program for housing homeless veterans found that while it has successfully helped veterans live independently, “an incomplete grant application evaluation process, a lack of program safety, security, health, and welfare standards, and an inconsistent monitoring program impacted the program’s effectiveness.”
The report is to be reviewed at a hearing Wednesday morning before the Senate Veterans Affairs committee, which will hear from two homeless female veterans, as well as service providers and officials from the VA.
The chairman of the committee said the report raises concerns about the safety of homeless female veterans.
“We cannot violate their trust by jeopardizing their privacy, safety, or security when we place them in housing facilities or when they receive care in VA’s facilities,” Sen. Patty Murray, (D-Wash.), said in a statement.
The number of female veterans has doubled from four percent of all veterans in 1990 to eight percent today, or an estimated 1.8 million. “As more women begin to transition the home, and step back into lives as mothers, wives, and citizens, we must be prepared to serve the unique challenges they face,”Murray said.
The VA estimates that female veterans make up about 7.9 percent of the population served by the department’s homeless programs.
Pete Doughtery, acting executive director of the VA’s Homeless Veterans Initiative Office, said in prepared testimony that VA researchers are examining barriers female veterans face in obtaining services.
The VA’s latest count found a 12 percent decrease in the number of homeless veterans on a given night, down from 76,329 in 2010 to 67,495 in 2011.
At a hearing earlier this month, Murray called a proposed 33 percent increase in the VA spending on homeless programs “encouraging” and said the budget “reflects the VA’s very real commitment to end homelessness.”
VA officials credit much of the reduction to a housing voucher program run in conjunction with the Department of Housing and Urban Development. As of Jan. 25, HUD-VASH, which pairs case management with housing vouchers, has housed 29,074 veterans and family members, according to Doughtery.