Tuesday morning, Interfaith CEO, Greg Anglea, testified in front of Congress on behalf of area Veterans. He made the case for:
Expanding eligibility to include all deserving Veterans in overcoming homelessness.
Increasing funding for supportive services that work with Veterans in need.
Establishing efforts to help Veterans with disabilities in securing benefits.
In the last decade, the launch of housing-focused VA interventions have reduced Veteran homelessness by nearly 50%, yet more than 37,000 Veterans remain homeless today.
“They answered the call to service, yet their country is now failing to help them in their time of crisis,” said Anglea.
He testified: “The introduction of HUD-VASH in 2008, along with additional housing-focused interventions like Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), is directly responsible for the dramatic, nearly 50% reduction in Veterans experiencing homelessness over the last decade, from 76,329 Veterans in 2010 to 37,085 in 2019, per the annual Point In Time Count.
That’s the good news. The bad news is that more than 37,000 men and women who sacrificed to protect our country are still struggling in homelessness. They answered the call to service, yet their country is now failing to help them in their time of crisis. This is unacceptable. As a nation, we must do better.”
Anglea called on Congress to make improvements in three areas:
1) Pass H.R. 2398 to expand eligibility for HUD-VASH to military personnel discharged with an “Other than Honorable” basis
2) Increase funding for the Supportive Services within HUD-VASH, and encourage contracting with local service providers
3) Establish pilot project to leverage HUD-VASH with sustainable income for chronically homeless, disabled veterans
Anglea gave the example of Veteran “Mr. Brown,” who served but now does not have access to housing services. After receiving an “Other than Honorable” (OTH) discharge, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and psychosis. The OTH discharge prevents Mr. Brown from being eligible for VA housing benefits.”
Anglea continued, “Through a privately funded grant Interfaith Community Services is able to provide mental health services for any Veteran regardless of VA healthcare eligibility. It is through that privately funded resource we have continued to see and support Mr. Brown.
“Mr. Brown continued to work with our counsellors over the next two years, maintaining sobriety despite being homeless. During that time he applied for disability benefits but was denied, a common response among the many disabled, homeless Veterans we serve.
“Years after his first program stay, we helped Mr. Brown re-enter our VA transitional housing program. He actively engages in program services and continues to make progress. His path out of homelessness remains doubtful though, as he is only eligible for SSVF, a short-term rental assistance program. With his current very-limited income, multiple disabling conditions, inability to secure disability benefits, and ineligibility for HUD-VASH, he will struggle to maintain independent living without the longer-term housing subsidy HUD-VASH would provide.
“Sadly, Mr. Brown’s story exemplifies a growing group of disabled, homeless Veterans falling through the gaps, living, and even dying, on the streets of the country they sacrificed to protect.”