No veteran should face homelessness

Guest Opinion

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Mike Crapo.U.S. Senator

No veteran who has served our nation should return home to face homelessness, but yet it is happening. Based on statistics from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reports there were 49,933 homeless veterans on a single night in January 2014. While the VA finds that homelessness among veterans is declining, work remains to end the homelessness of those who have given so much for us. 

This fall, I had the opportunity to participate in the 21st Annual South East Idaho Homeless Stand Down where I was able to work alongside community volunteers sorting items that would help the homeless veterans in East Idaho prepare for the cold winter ahead. It is very encouraging to see the strong turnout in our communities to help our homeless and veterans. The VA also hosts homeless stand downs at facilities around the country (https://www.va.gov/homeless/events.asp). The Boise VA Medical Center held an event in October where veterans had access to medical screenings, food, haircuts and other items. 

When people put their lives on the line for our freedom and then come back with difficulties, it is imperative that we recognize what they face and help overcome it. It is crucial that our government offers these service members support and that our communities come together to help these veterans back on their feet.

I am a strong supporter of federal programs aimed at helping our homeless veterans:

The VA collaborates with HUD to run the supportive housing program called HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH). HUD-VASH provides rental assistance vouchers that homeless veterans may use toward rent in privately-owned housing. 

Additionally, the VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program helps veterans and their families avoid becoming homeless by finding more accommodating living situations. It also helps those who have recently become homeless. 

The Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem program helps non-profit organizations and state, local and tribal governments develop and operate transitional housing for veterans.

The Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans program is designed to “provide residential, interdisciplinary clinical care for sheltered and homeless veterans with multiple challenges, illnesses or rehabilitative care needs.”

This is just some of the assistance available. Information on these and other federal programs to provide assistance with housing, employment, health care and criminal justice can be accessed on the VA’s website at:  www.va.gov. Additionally, I encourage homeless or soon-to-be homeless veterans to reach out to the VA’s National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838) for programs that can help. My staff also stands at the ready should a veteran require assistance with VA benefits or other federal programs. Please contact one of my regional offices:   

  • Idaho State Office (Boise) 208-334-1776; South-Central Idaho (Twin Falls) (208) 734-2515; North Idaho (Coeur d’Alene) (208) 664-5490; Eastern Idaho, North (Idaho Falls) (208) 522-9779; North-Central Idaho (Lewiston) (208) 743-1492; Eastern Idaho, South (Pocatello) (208) 236-6775.

The VA’s webpage addressing homelessness reads, “No Veteran Should Be Without a Place to Call Home.” I could not agree more. Together, our communities can continue to make a difference. The massive effort put forth in organizing the 21st Annual South East Idaho Homeless Stand Down and the Homeless Veterans Stand Down event in Boise are examples of Idahoans’ steadfast commitment to restore honor and dignity to veterans and their families experiencing difficulties such as homelessness. I look forward to being a part of more events like these in the future and wish to extend my sincere thanks to those dedicated to serving veterans in this capacity.

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