Veterans Affairs leaders this year will repeat their 2022 goal of getting at least 38,000 financially distressed veterans into stable housing, but are also setting additional benchmarks to ensure those moves lead to permanent improvements for individuals in need.
Department officials announced the new plans Wednesday morning, designed to build on momentum seen in VA homeless prevention efforts in recent years. Staffers helped provide housing for more than 40,000 veterans experiencing homelessness last year, surpassing their public goal.
“We are making real progress in the fight to end veteran homelessness, but even one veteran experiencing homelessness is one too many,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough said in a statement. “We will not rest until every veteran has a safe, stable place to call home in this country they fought to defend.”
About 33,000 veterans were without stable shelter during the annual Point In Time count conducted by VA and Department of Housing and Urban Development officials in early 2022. But that number fluctuates throughout the year, with hundreds of individuals facing financial or personal issues that can lead to a lapse in stable housing.
The PIT Count figure is down more than 11% from the start of 2020, and VA officials are hopeful that their efforts last year will show another decrease in the 2023 count, conducted in January (results will not be released until this fall).
But Monica Diaz, executive director of the Veterans Health Administration Homeless Programs Office, also acknowledged that a significant number of veterans still need help. She said the department’s repeated goal of helping at least 38,000 distressed veterans this year represents both a challenge and an opportunity for VA.
“We acknowledge and recognize our progress, but we also wanted to have a very ambitious goal when it comes making sure that veterans were going to be placed into housing and we’re going to keep them housed,” she said.
Department leaders are vowing to ensure that 95% of veterans helped this year do not return to homelessness again (that figure was 94% last year).
They are also aiming to help 28,000 unsheltered veterans — individuals without any family, friends or other secondary means of housing — to obtain some level of assistance from the department. That goal is up about 10% from VA results last year.
VA leaders will also specifically target Los Angeles, the American city estimated to have the most homeless veterans. Officials have set a goal of provisioning permanent housing placements to at least 1,500 homeless veterans there.
The work ties into the White House goal of reducing homelessness among all Americans by 25% over the next two years.
Veterans who are at risk of homelessness or without reliable shelter can contact the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-424-3838.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.