Growing up in a military family, I always knew that I would join the military one day. Following in the footsteps of my uncles, I proudly served my country then separated from the United States Air Force after 11 years. Thanks to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) Vocational Rehabilitation program, I was able to finish my undergraduate degree and landed a pretty awesome gig in the Public Affairs Office here at HUD.
Aside from having to worry about what to wear every day (I was so used to wearing a uniform!) , my transition from military to civilian life went very smoothly. These days, in the wake of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars the transition from military to civilian life is not an easy one. In fact, it’s a day to day struggle for returning troops. Some veterans return home and find themselves homeless. The sad fact is that veterans are 50 percent more likely to become homeless compared to all Americans.
Last month, HUD and VA jointly released the second annual Veteran’s Annual Homelessness Assessment Report (AHAR), which gives us an assessment of the homeless veteran population. According to the report, in 2010, homeless veterans accounted for 1 in 150 veterans and about 1 in 9 veterans living in poverty. It also reported that in January 2010, 76,329 veterans were living in emergency shelter or in an unsheltered place. This is unacceptable.
This is why the Obama Administration has set the ambitious goal to end veteran’s homelessness by 2015. Using the Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan as a roadmap the federal government will be able to get to the root cause of veteran’s homelessness and work to put an end to it.
HUD is also doing its part through the HUD-VASH program. The program combines Housing Choice Voucher rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the VA. The VA medical center will refer participating veterans to their local public housing authority to sign up for the program.
Today, we honor our veterans and remember the sacrifice they made.
Our veterans stood up and fought for our freedom so now it’s our turn to stand up and fight for them. Because one homeless veteran is one too many.