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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Strickland Introduces Legislation To Address Veteran Homelessness

Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (D-WA).

Today, Congresswoman Marilyn Strickland (D-WA) introduced legislation, H.R. 5470, that will help end veteran homelessness. The bill, The Housing Opportunities to Mitigate Expenses for Services (HOMES) for our Veterans Act, will reduce barriers and make it easier for organizations who provide homes and services to veterans experiencing homelessness to access federal capital grants.

Veterans are hugely impacted by homelessness, and many are not afforded the resources that they need in order to get by. According to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, it is estimated that over 37,000 veterans in the U.S. experienced homelessness in 2020, with Washington state alone accounting for 5% of these cases.

Coming from a military family, where her father fought in World War II and the Korean War, Strickland understands the importance of helping those who fought for our protection.  She says that while the global pandemic and a shortage of housing has affected many families across the country, the issue is disproportionately affecting military veterans and their families.

“As the South Sound experiences both a housing shortage and a pandemic, it remains difficult for military veterans to find safe, secure and affordable housing,” says Strickland.

“40% of the military is made up of people of color, 20% is African American,” added Strickland. “Some do not have a smooth transition once leaving the military, or a job lined up right away. [This legislation] empowers service providers to give veterans experiencing homelessness the support they deserve to get back on their feet.”

The HOMES for our Veterans Act makes it easier and cheaper for veterans’ service providers, known as Grant and Per Diem (GPD) recipients, to access capital grant funding from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Prior to COVID-19, these providers had to provide 35% of the project cost to access the grant. The HOMES for our Veterans Act would eliminate this match requirement for 5 years.

Even though the world has returned to some form of normalcy, we still have a ways to go and Strickland’s proposal, according to many advocates, is a step in the right direction. Besides getting them housed, it also helps veterans get prepared and figure out a plan for life moving forward.

“The Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program is a vital component of VA’s evidence-based continuum of services to help Veterans experiencing homelessness achieve residential stability, optimum wellness, improved financial health, and greater self-determination,” said Monica Diaz, Executive Director of the Veterans Health AdministrationHomeless Programs Office.“The changes proposed to the GPD Program in the ‘HOMES for our Veterans Act of 2021’ will help advance VA’s goal of accelerating progress in reducing homelessness among Veterans by removing a key barrier to developingVA-funded transitional housing facilities, putting more vulnerable Veterans on the pathway to permanent housing.”

According to Strickland, it can be jarring to think about how people who fought for our country are ending up in a place where they have nowhere to live. While the COVID crisis and systemic issues have made it harder in general for veterans, Strickland believes that we must do all that we can for veterans to enjoy the quality of life that they risked their lives to protect.

“We owe it to our veterans to give them the best possible chance to thrive, and that is exactly what this legislation will do,” said Strickland.

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