Budget Cuts and Homeless Veterans

In March, as part of a series looking at the impact of state and local budget cuts on communities across the country, New Jersey Rep. Rush Holt examined the potentially-devastating effect of an austere budgetary climate on the nation’s 75,000 homeless veterans.

Holt specifically pointed to a Republican proposal that passed the House that would have eliminated $75 million for the HUD-Veterans Affiars Supported Housing voucher program, first enacted in late 2007, calling the proposal “shameful and indefensible.” The program has issued 30,000 vouchers since the program was put into place, according to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

To be sure, the 75,000 number is only part of the story, because that number ballooned as high as 135,000 when accounting for veterans who spent at least one night in a shelter in 2009. Holt’s home state of New Jersey has roughly 8,000 homeless veterans — less than 1 percent of the homeless veteran population. But in places like California, which shoulders more than a quarter of the homeless veterans population with 20,000, cuts to HUD-VASH vouchers are all the more profound, according to a HUD/VA report, Veteran Homelessness.

As we know with so many programs, particularly with several important HUD programs, the goal posts were rigged so programs like this — ones that hardly make a dent in a nearly-$4 trillion budget, but are of immense consequence to very specific demographics — are considered “lucky” if they maintained any federal funding whatsoever. This one was not zeroed out, as was the case with, for example, $88 million in HUD Housing Counseling Assistance, but did suffer a 33 percent cut, reducing HUD-VASH allotment to $50 million in the FY2011 Continuing Resolution.

That said, the budget that passed the Republican-controlled House did completely eliminate the rental voucher program.

Citizens’ Housing and Planning Association put together a useful fact sheet on cuts to HUD programs. Take a look by clicking here. HUD has reportedly requested the full $75 million for the HUD-VASH program in the 2012 budget. We’ll see how that plays out.

In the meantime, we want to hear about how various budget cuts — state, local, county, or federal — are affecting your community. We’ll be moving our budget fallout series from a separate, web-only feature, to an ongoing discussion here on Rooflines. Please write us at letters@nhi.org

Matthew Brian Hersh served as senior editor at Shelterforce from March 2008 to October 2012. He studied English at Rutgers University and has spent his professional career in journalism, policy, and politics.


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