Biden-Harris Administration Taking Action to End Veteran Homelessness
No Veteran should be without a place to call home. That is why Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia L. Fudge and Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Denis McDonough, the respective chair and vice chair of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), affirmed their commitment to ending Veteran homelessness through a whole-of-government effort. In April, Secretaries Fudge and McDonough issued a joint statement, charging their staffs in collaboration with USICH staff with developing a set of strategies and targets to accelerate progress on ending Veteran homelessness. The strategies outlined in this fact sheet were developed through that charge and comprise a comprehensive multi-year approach to eliminating Veteran homelessness.
In addition to these strategies, the Biden-Harris Administration is calling on state and local leaders through the House America initiative to re-house a significant number of people experiencing homelessness, including Veterans, into permanent housing and to add new units of affordable and supportive housing to the development pipeline to address homelessness amongst Veterans.
Since 2010, the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness in the U.S. has been cut almost in half, from 74,087 in 2010 to 37,252 in 2020. Several factors played a role in this progress: investments in Veteran-specific programs, a Housing First approach, and strong leadership. Despite the overall decrease in Veteran homelessness, data shows that progress has stalled since 2016. In addition, 50 percent of Veterans experiencing homelessness in the U.S. are located in regions covered by only nine percent of Continuums of Care. These high-prevalence communities include large cities, rural areas, and suburbs, which emphasizes the need for targeted approaches in certain parts of the country. Together, HUD, VA, and USICH are prioritizing strategies that work, including:
- Make Ending Veteran Homelessness a Top Priority - VA and HUD are prioritizing this effort at the highest levels. Staff in both agencies are working collaboratively to significantly reduce the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness and to prevent Veterans from experiencing homelessness in the future. The Secretaries of both agencies, in coordination with USICH will directly review progress on these goals. VA, HUD, and USICH will also pursue targeted technical assistance in communities with the highest prevalence of homeless Veterans, including Los Angeles.
- Lead With an Evidence-Based Housing First Approach - Evidence and past progress on reducing Veteran homelessness demonstrate a Housing First approach works. HUD and VA are reinforcing Housing First, including through targeted interventions such as HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH), Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), and Grant and Per Diem. These interventions assist Veterans in obtaining stable housing as quickly as possible and without barriers or preconditions. HUD is assisting Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) in identifying additional vacant apartments and engaging landlords through technical assistance on best practices, higher voucher payment standards as needed, and guidance on extraordinary administrative fees for activities related to landlord engagement.
- Reach Underserved Veterans - HUD and VA are pursuing new approaches to serve Veterans for whom prior efforts have fallen short, including Veterans with other than honorable discharge status, Native American Veterans (both on and off Tribal lands), and Veterans who are women, members of racial and ethnic minority groups, LGBTQ+, aging, and/or living in rural areas. The agencies are implementing continuous evaluation of current policies and the development of new strategies to identify and remove barriers to housing, ensure that programs operate in an equitable manner, and address disparities in access and outcomes based on race, gender identity, sexual identity, socioeconomic status, and legal history. VA and HUD will continue to directly engage Veterans, including those experiencing disparity, to understand their experiences and inform action. HUD is encouraging the prioritization of Veterans who cannot be served by HUD-VASH, SSVF, or other programs for American Rescue Plan Emergency Housing Vouchers and Housing Choice Vouchers. VA is enhancing residential homeless programs - including Grant and Per Diem programs - and increasing the use of telehealth to equitably reach underserved Veteran populations, including justice-involved Veterans and Veterans living in rural areas.
- Increase the Supply of and Access to Affordable Housing - A significant obstacle to ending Veteran homelessness is the lack of affordable housing, especially in many urban centers. HUD is using American Rescue Plan resources to increase the supply of affordable housing and ensure Veterans have access. HUD and VA are engaging landlords and affordable housing developers, supporting the use of federal programs to create and subsidize affordable housing, identifying ways to improve Veteran access to these housing units, supporting state and local collaboration to finance and create affordable housing, and examining and addressing current barriers to project-basing HUD-VASH vouchers and Housing Choice Vouchers. HUD is encouraging grantees, housing agencies, and developers to adopt policies that establish admissions preferences for Veterans. USICH is engaging with localities to examine their inventory of affordable housing, including local Veteran set-asides and preferences, to determine how affordable housing available to Veterans can be expanded.
- Ensure the Delivery of Quality Supportive Services - Supportive services are critical to helping Veterans find and retain housing. These services serve as a platform for achieving health, recovery, and economic success. Working with federal and community stakeholders, we are identifying ways to ensure Veterans have access to quality supportive health, mental health, and legal services alongside employment and housing assistance provided by VA or community partners. VA is working to develop initiatives that support the integration of geriatric services with VA homeless programs to address the needs of aging Veterans. VA is increasing Veterans’ access to legal services through additional grants and will work to increase employment opportunities to enhance income and financial stability.
- Prevent Homelessness Among Veterans - In addition to accelerating the pace of re-housing Veterans who are currently homeless, VA and HUD are working to significantly reduce the number of Veterans who newly experience homelessness through enhanced homelessness prevention efforts. HUD is providing technical assistance to help Continuums of Care implement effective targeted homelessness prevention and diversion as part of coordinated entry systems. VA is expanding home retention options and expanding rental assistance to extremely low and very low-income Veterans who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. HUD and VA are supporting federal interagency efforts to prevent Veterans from housing loss due to evictions and foreclosures through American Rescue Plan resources.