HUD Releases Delayed Report on Homeless Veterans After Push from Senate, House Veterans’ Affairs Leadership
Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs leaders urged Acting HUD Secretary to release urgent data critical to tackling veteran homelessness
Following a bipartisan push from Senate and House Veterans' Affairs Committee leaders, Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.), Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.), and Ranking Member Mike Bost (R-Ill.), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today released its annual report with critical data on veterans experiencing homelessness.
Each year, HUD releases a Point-in-Time (PIT) count of unhoused people, including veterans. HUD conducted its annual count in January 2020, but never released its report-a major resource for Congress in making decisions about how to legislate and allocate resources to respond to veteran homelessness.
"Our efforts to serve homeless veterans and their families have been kneecapped without having a better understanding of the daily challenges these folks face," said Chairman Tester. "I'm glad that the new Administration quickly answered our call to release this report that'll help better inform Congress, VA, and organizations on the ground as we work together to provide resources where they're most needed. Homeless veterans are some of the most at-risk for COVID-19 complications during this pandemic, and their safety must remain our top priority."
"I appreciate HUD's expedited response to my request for information regarding the PIT count," said Ranking Member Moran. "This data is essential to understanding the veteran homeless population and shows that even before the COVID-19 pandemic our veterans were facing increased challenges with homelessness. During the 116th Congress we passed laws to provide additional funding, increased flexibility and program expansions to help our homeless veterans, and I am committed to conducting oversight to ensure these laws are implemented efficiently, to provide services for homeless veterans and those at-risk of becoming homeless."
"After years of improvement, the progress made to house homeless veterans halted over the last two years," said Chairman Takano. "The HUD 2020 PIT count makes it clear that even before the COVID-19 pandemic created serious economic strain, things were getting worse for the thousands of Americans experiencing housing insecurity-this is exactly why we needed access to this critical data. Now is the time to invest in our veterans. The American Rescue Plan is only a start in our work to end veteran homelessness once and for all."
"I am relieved that the point in time count for 2020 was finally released and showed only a small increase in veteran homelessness. But, this count occurred before the pandemic. COVID-19 and the jobs lost because of it continue to pose a real threat to veterans and their families," said Ranking Member Bost. "That's why we must continue our work to get veterans vaccinated, back to work, safely housed, and fully recovered. That's also why we have to make sure that every penny of the billions of dollars in COVID-relief funds Congress has given VA supports the veterans, like these, who need our help. We will not give up until the number of homeless veterans is zero."
The 2020 report found a less than one percent increase overall in veteran homelessness since 2019-the first increase in over a decade. Data also revealed that while women veterans comprise less than ten percent of veterans experiencing homelessness, they are more likely to be caring for dependents and to be unsheltered compared to their male counterparts. One in three Black veterans are unhoused despite representing just a tenth of all veterans nationwide-making this group disproportionality affected by homelessness. As these populations are some of the most affected by the economic and health care crisis brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, this data is critical to ensuring that resources and support is available where it can best serve all veterans.
Earlier this month, Veterans' Affairs committee lawmakers urged Acting HUD Secretary Matt Ammon to release the report. In the letter, they pressed HUD on a timeline of the 2020 report, challenges facing the Department, how to prevent future delays, and collaborations with VA to address veterans-specific challenges based on findings from the 2020 and 2021 reports.
Committee leaders additionally secured key provisions in the Johnny Isakson and David P. Roe, M.D. Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2020, an end-of-year veterans' package with language to remove barriers to VA funding for organizations in need of critical upgrades to keep homeless veterans safe from the coronavirus.