Washington state’s system of services for homeless veterans is getting a boost this year from the federal government: nearly $1.6 million in funding and 240 additional rental assistance vouchers.
The funding was announced by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julián Castro on April 20 in Seattle. HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) allocated $65 million to help more than 9,300 homeless veterans, nationwide, find permanent housing.
“Too many Americans who have answered the call of duty struggle to adjust to life after military service,” Castro said. “No veteran should be relegated to the shadows of our society because they are going through hard times.”
Seattle and King County will receive about $900,000 for 124 vouchers as part of the HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program (HUD-VASH), which provides rental assistance alongside case management and clinical services, typically allowing tenants to pay no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent.
The program helps veterans like Chuck Scott, who served in the military for nearly 10 years and ended up homeless after getting behind on rent while living in Friday Harbor. A stint in transitional housing at the Compass Veterans Center in Renton allowed Scott to get on his feet and find a job in the tech industry, and then caseworkers connected him with a HUD-VASH voucher. He now lives with his wife in Seattle at the Compass on Dexter, where Castro announced the new funding.
After his long days at work, Scott said, “It’s definitely good to know that you can come home, that you have a place to come to every night, every day. We love it here.”
Mayor Ed Murray is one of hundreds of mayors across the country who signed on for the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, a federal initiative to end veteran homelessness in 2015. At the announcement, he challenged rental owners to be part of the solution.
“Let’s see the private sector identify the units that can close the gap and end homelessness,” he said. “People who serve our country, who put themselves at risk, should not return here to face homelessness.”
Since 2010, veteran homelessness has decreased by 33 percent. But there’s still a long way to go, and the vouchers won’t be sufficient to help all remaining homeless veterans in Seattle find permanent housing. According to the 2014 HUD Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, there were nearly 50,000 veterans experiencing homelessness nationwide, including an estimated 1,433 in Washington and 685 in King County.
Castro called ending veteran homelessness in 2015 a “stretch-goal,” but he cited other cities that have announced the end of veteran homelessness, such as New Orleans, Salt Lake City and Phoenix, as evidence that it is possible.
To Scott, the announcement is still encouraging.
“It’s really a good thing to hear,” he said. “It means a lot, because I know a lot of people out there who have this issue. I think it’s going to be a tough challenge — there are a lot of homeless people out there — but it’s a wonderful thing.”
AT A POINT-IN-TIME COUNT IN JANUARY 2014
More than one in 10 homeless adults was a veteran, 49,933 homeless veterans or 11 percent of 442,723
Homeless veterans were found in unsheltered locations at the same rate as all homeless adults, 36 percent.
Most homeless veterans were individuals, 38,985 people, or 96 percent. However, there were 1,708 veterans, or 4 percent, who were homeless as families with children. Female homeless veterans accounted for 10 percent