September 19, 2015

Hirono & Boozman Introduce Legislation To Keep Veterans Housing Programs Alive

Without Intervention, Key Programs Will Expire At The End Of September

Senators Mazie K. Hirono and John Boozman (R-AR), members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced legislation Thursday to authorize federal homeless veteran programs for the next fiscal year. The Keeping Our Commitment to Ending Veteran Homelessness Act would reauthorize seven Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Department of Labor programs for the next fiscal year. Without Senators Hirono and Boozman’s action, authorization for critical programs that provide outreach and services to homeless veterans and their families would expire on September 30, 2015.

“Supporting our nation’s veterans is a solemn task that does not expire at the end of the government’s fiscal year, so we must ensure programs that provide essential housing and supportive services can continue uninterrupted past September 30,” said Senator Hirono. “Organizations in Hawaii and across the country are working hard to get veterans and their families the resources they need to have a permanent and stable roof over their heads. Our veterans will suffer if authorization for these VA and Department of Labor programs is interrupted. I thank Senator Boozman for joining me in keeping our commitment to our veterans and their families.”

“Homelessness is a serious problem amongst our nation’s veterans, but we have seen firsthand that effective partnerships can help,” said Senator Boozman. “Our bill ensures that homeless veterans can continue to get the essential services—including transitional housing, meals and employment counseling—that are necessary to rebuild their lives. We’ve seen success with these types of partnerships in Arkansas where organizations like St. Francis House in Little Rock and Seven Hills Homeless Center in Fayetteville have been able help many homeless veterans in need. These partnerships are among our best tools to confront the challenges homeless veterans face in this current economic environment and it is important that we continue the programs that enable them.”

“This legislation will maintain critical funding to address veteran homelessness throughout Hawaii,” said Scott Morishige, Governor David Ige’s Coordinator on Homelessness. “Through the various programs included in this legislation, Hawaii has made significant progress towards ending veteran homelessness in our state.   These programs not only provide direct housing support, but also essential health and employment services to sustain veterans in their homes.”

“This reauthorization demonstrates Congress’s continued commitment to the programs that work to prevent and end veteran homelessness,” said Baylee Crone, executive director of the National Coalition to End Veterans Homelessness. “Thousands of local community providers across the country can only continue to help homeless veterans off the streets and into permanent housing with the support these federal programs offer. Those providers have been the connection point to stability for tens of thousands of formerly homeless veterans housed since 2009, and this reauthorization will allow them to continue their important work in the new Fiscal Year.”

Last year, the VA served 660 homeless veterans across the state. More than 600 veterans currently benefit from the programs that will be reauthorized by the Hirono-Boozman bill. In the last fiscal year, Hawaii received more than $4 million from the expiring programs.

The Keeping Our Commitment to Ending Veteran Homelessness Act would reauthorize the following programs:

Healthcare for Homeless Veterans (HCHV): Through HCHV, VA medical center staff conduct outreach to homeless veterans, provide care and treatment for medical, psychiatric, and substance use disorders, and refer veterans for supportive services. The HCHV program is authorized through FY2015 (P.L. 112-154). In the last three fiscal year cycles, increased support through this program allowed the VA Pacific Island Healthcare System to double its Homeless Program staff in Hawaii.

Grants and Per Diem (GPD) for Homeless Veterans with Special Needs: GPD for homeless veterans with special needs, authorized at $5 million through FY2015 (P.L. 113-175), targets GPD funds to specific groups of veterans, including women, elderly veterans, terminally or mentally ill veterans, and veterans with children. Last fiscal year, Hawaii received more than $1.5 million in GPD funding.

Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF): SSVF funds grants for supportive services to assist very low-income veterans and their families who are either residing in permanent housing or transitioning from homelessness. Eligible services include assistance with rent, utility or moving costs, outreach, case management, and help with obtaining VA and other mainstream benefits. Catholic Charities Hawaii and U.S.VETS recently received more than $2 million total to fund their programs on Oahu, Maui, and Kauai.

Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans: A committee created by law made up of veteran service organizations and service providers to provide advice to the VA secretary on benefits and services the Department gives to homeless veterans.

Acquired Property Sales for Homeless Veterans: The VA is authorized to sell, lease, lease with the option to buy, or donate properties to nonprofit organizations and state government agencies that will use the property as homeless shelters for veterans and their families. The program is authorized through FY2015 by P.L. 113-175.

Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP): HVRP grantees provide services to veterans including outreach, assistance in interview preparation, job search, job training, and follow-up assistance after placement. In fiscal year 2015, Hawaii received $500,000 in HVRP funding.

A separate HVRP targets women veterans and veterans with children and is authorized through FY2015 at $1 million (P.L. 111-275).

Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program: Most recently authorized through FY2015 (P.L. 113-175), grantee organizations through the Incarcerated Veterans Transition program provide job training and placement services to veterans who are leaving prison.