When I spoke with the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans this morning, I had a chance to talk about one of the top priorities for President Obama and myself: Ending homelessness among veterans. One out of every six men and women in our shelters has worn our country’s uniform, and that is a national disgrace. It is also the reason HUD put together a strategic plan to end homelessness among veterans by 2015. Not reduce it, not redefine it, but end it.
New York Times columnist David Brooks recently visited HUD and sat in on one of our regular meetings designed to monitor the progress we’re making toward that goal. Even though Brooks is a conservative columnist covering a Democratic administration, he came away impressed. That’s because ending veterans’ homelessness is one of those issues that has nothing to do with ideology, or whether you have a “D” or an “R” after you name. Making sure the heroes who answered the call to service are treated with the dignity they deserve when they return is absolutely central to upholding our nation’s values.
With that mission in mind, HUD has dedicated itself to collaboration across governmental agencies, focusing on finding out what works. The first step was knowing the scope of our problem: How many veterans are homeless and where are they? President Obama and I both know the importance of good data. That’s why, in the effort to end homelessness among veterans, the department is using a program called HUDStat to monitor the effectiveness and efficiency of our services to veterans.
This effort isn’t about spin or scoring political points. It’s about knowing where the need for support is greatest and the best ways to deliver that help. So far, we have seen that HUD’s efforts to eliminate homelessness among servicemen and women have been incredibly successful, with the collaboration between HUD and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing helping more than 21,000 veterans.
I know fiscal discipline is important in this budget climate. And we also know investing in efforts to end homelessness save taxpayers money by making sure America’s most vulnerable are not sent through the revolving doors of emergency rooms, shelters and jails. The data backs it up. That is why HUD has not cut funding to end homelessness, and instead increased the support going to those programs in 2011, including a request for 10,000 more vouchers specifically for homeless veterans.
When I spoke with the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, I was talking about an issue that goes beyond politics. No matter what side of the aisle our lawmakers fall on, we know what the brave men and women who wear our uniform deserve when they return to the nation they defended. They deserve stability. They deserve a place to call home. Anything less is unacceptable.
Everyone knows we must do more to help veterans and eliminate homelessness among the selfless Americans who defend us abroad. That is why HUD is dedicated to addressing this crisis. We have seen how effective these programs can be, and will continue to work until homelessness is no longer a problem for our nation’s veterans.