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HUD and VA officials launch $15 million demonstration program to prevent veteran homelessness

WASHINGTON -- In an effort to prevent homelessness among veterans, primarily those returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs today announced that both agencies will invest a combined $15 million in five selected communities near military installations.

The HUD and VA grant funding is intended to provide housing assistance and supportive services to veterans who might otherwise be living in homeless shelters or on the streets.

Under the new Veterans Homelessness Prevention Demonstration Program, existing HUD grantees, or "Continuums of Care," located near the following military installations will each receive $2 million: MacDill Air Force Base, Fla.; Camp Pendleton, Calif.; Fort Hood, Texas; Fort Drum, N.Y.; and Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash.

In addition, VA medical centers in the following areas will each receive $1 million: Tampa, Fla.; San Diego; Dallas; Syracuse, N.Y.; and American Lake, Wash.

"The men and women who serve our nation deserve better than a life on the streets when they return home," said HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan. "These grants represent a first step toward designing the best interventions possible so that we can prevent homelessness for those heroes who sacrificed so much for us. It is also another step forward toward reaching President Obama's goal of preventing and ending homelessness in all its forms."

"While usually the strongest and most resilient of Americans, veterans still represent a disproportionate share of America's jobless, homeless, depressed, substance abusers, and suicides," said Secretary of VA Eric K. Shinseki. "Nowhere is our obligation to our citizens, and to our veterans who have defended our nation, more important, more visible, or more necessary than in our commitment to prevent and end homelessness."

"This effort is about reaching veterans and their families who are transitioning home and struggling to readjust," said Sen. Patty Murray, who established VHPD in the fiscal 2009 Housing Appropriations bill. "By providing access to stable housing, health care, and job training and outreach services, this program provides targeted support to our heroes who are returning home to a difficult economic climate. All veterans deserve housing and the dignity that comes with it, and this is another step to reach those who have sacrificed so much."

Through this combination of housing, health care and employment services provided through the Department of Labor, VHPD is designed to explore innovative early interventions to help prevent veteran homelessness, targeted to service members returning from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The three-year grants announced July 29 will help the five identified communities or "Continuums of Care" to use and track client-level data provided by VA and Department of Defense officials to target veterans who meet the eligibility criteria.

VA officials will act as the primary liaison to the grantee and will provide eligible veterans with access to VA health care and benefits.

HUD funds will provide short- or medium-term rental assistance, including security deposits, utility payments and case management. In addition, the program will offer community-based supportive services appropriate for veterans and their families, including child care and family services.

VHPD is also intended to improve the understanding of the unique needs of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq.

HUD officials anticipate that it will take approximately 90 days from the date these grant agreements are signed for selected grantees to be able to identify and serve veteran individuals and/or families who qualify for assistance under VHPD.

VHPD also supports the Obama Administration's plan to prevent and end homelessness. Last month, HUD and 18 other federal agencies unveiled Opening Doors, an unprecedented federal strategy to end veteran and chronic homelessness by 2015, and to end homelessness among children, families and youth by 2020.