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Lawmakers Introduce Bill to Protect Homeless Veteran Programs

August 15, 2017, 11:00 AM HST
* Updated August 14, 4:28 PM
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Big Island Now stock photo. June 2016.

Senators Mazie K. Hirono (D-Hawaii) and John Boozman (R-Ark.), members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, have introduced a new bill to continue federal programs for homeless veterans that are set to expire on Sept. 30, 2017.

The Keeping Our Commitment to Ending Veteran Homelessness Act would renew seven U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and U.S. Department of Labor programs that provide outreach and services to homeless veterans and their families.

“Organizations in Hawai‘i and throughout the country are working hard every day to help ensure our country’s veterans have a permanent and stable roof over their heads,” said Sen. Hirono. “We cannot allow funding for these critical programs to lapse and I thank Senator Boozman for his strong support in this fight to keep our commitments to our veterans and their families.”

“We must support our nation’s veterans by providing them with the tools and resources they need to end the cycle of homelessness,” Sen. Boozman said. “We’ve seen the success of these programs in Arkansas and all across the country to help our veterans rebuild their lives. Continuing to fund these services must be a priority.”

To date, the programs have served more than 800 homeless veterans across Hawai‘i in Fiscal Year 2017, according to a news release by Sen. Hirono’s office.

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“U.S. VETS is the nation’s largest homeless veteran service provider that commits itself to reintegrating homeless and at-risk veterans and their families into the community,” said Darryl Vincent U.S.VETS’ chief operating officer. “It is our mission at U.S. VETS to work for the day that no veteran who has given their life to protect our freedoms suffer the indignity of homelessness.”

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The programs set to expire include:

  • Healthcare for Homeless Veterans: Conducts outreach to homeless veterans, provides care and treatment for medical, psychiatric, and substance use disorders, and refers veterans for supportive services.
  • Grants and Per Diem (GPD) Homeless Veterans with Special Needs: Allows VA to award grants to community-based agencies to create transitional housing programs and offer per diem payments. GPD Special Needs funding assists with operating costs of services for special need groups such as women, mentally ill, and those with minor dependents.
  • Supportive Services for Veteran Families: Funds grants for supportive services to assist very low-income veterans and their families who are either residing in permanent housing or transitioning from homelessness.
  • Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans: Provides advice to the VA secretary on benefits and services the VA gives to homeless veterans.
  • Acquired Property Sales for Homeless Veterans: Authorizes the VA to sell, lease, lease with the option to buy, or donate properties to nonprofit organizations and state government agencies that will use the property as homeless shelters for veterans and their families.
  • Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program: Provides services to veterans including outreach, assistance in interview preparation, job search, job training and follow-up assistance after placement.
  • Incarcerated Veterans Transition Program: Provides job training and placement services to veterans who are leaving prison.

“The programs extended by this bill are vital in the fight to end homelessness among veterans and they have prevented tens of thousands of veterans and their families from ever becoming homeless,” said Kathryn Monet, CEO of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

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