Number of homeless vets down 12 percent, report says

December 13, 2011

The number of homeless veterans in the United States declined by nearly 12 percent between January 2010 and January 2011, according to figures being released Tuesday by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan called the decline “nothing short of extraordinary,” given the economic conditions in the country.

The annual survey found that 67,495 veterans were homeless in the United States on a single night in January 2011, nearly 9,000 fewer than the 76,329 counted in January 2010.

The figures show nearly an 11 percent drop in homelessness among veterans since January 2009, when 75,609 were recorded as homeless.

Officials said the survey results keep the Obama administration on schedule to meet a goal established in 2009 of ending veteran homelessness by 2015.

“Our progress in the fight against homelessness has been significant, but our work is not complete until no veteran has to sleep on the street,” VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki said in a statement.

Since 2009, the VA and HUD have used a housing voucher program to place 33,597 veterans in permanent supportive housing.

“These numbers validate the work done by both HUD and VA to reach our nation’s homeless veterans and get them into permanent housing,” Donovan said.

The “point-in-time” counts provide a snapshot of homelessness on a single night. Teams in more than 400 communities around the country surveyed shelters, parks and other gathering places for the homeless to produce the figures.

About 59 percent of the homeless veterans found in the 2011 survey were in shelters, transitional housing programs or safe havens, a 2 percent increase from the 2010 survey. The remaining 41 percent were found living in unsheltered locations, including streets, abandoned buildings, vehicles and parks.

The share of veterans among all homeless adults in the country has declined from 16 percent in 2009 and 2010 to 14 percent in 2011, according to the figures.

The point-in-time survey is part of a broader assessment of homelessness in 2011 that will be released next year.

The VA also announced it will make $100 million in grants available to community agencies across the country through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families program. The VA said the money would help prevent nearly 42,000 veterans and their families from falling into homelessness or return them to stable housing. Last year, the VA distributed $60 million to 85 nonprofit agencies, aiding about 22,000 veterans and family members, according to the department.

“The problems that lead to homelessness begin long before veterans and their families are on the streets,” Shinseki said.

Steve Vogel is a reporter for the national staff of The Washington Post who covers the federal government and frequently writes about the military and veterans.
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