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Confronting veteran homelessness

Confronting veteran homelessness

The American Legion’s Economic Division will host its annual Homeless Veterans Roundtable at the organization’s Washington Conference in the nation’s capital. Representatives from federal agencies, homeless service providers, faith-based organizations and other institutions will congregate at the Washington Hilton hotel on Feb. 22, from 10 a.m. to noon to discuss VA’s progress toward its five-year plan to end veteran homelessness.

Three years ago, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced the plan and drew equal parts criticism and praise for setting a goal that seemed lofty and unrealistic. The statistics have since dropped to an estimated 63,000 veterans homeless on any given night. This means veterans make up around 13 percent of the overall homeless population, which is down from three years ago, when estimates found that veterans made up around 20 percent of the homeless population.

Still, work remains to be done, as veterans come home in the wake of the drawdowns from wars overseas.

"VA has clearly made progress on addressing the homeless veterans issue," said Mark Walker, deputy director of the Legion’s Economic Division. "The important thing now is to continue that progress and look after the newly separated veterans returning from the wars overseas. It’s imperative that we don’t let homelessness or financial destitution become a problem for them."

The Legion’s Homeless Veterans Roundtable plans to confront that issue and will also evaluate the effectiveness of the $100 million in funding grants that VA awarded last year to local organizations that help low-income veterans. The funding reached 151 community agencies, spanning 49 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The Legion has been doing its part, as well. Last year, the Economic Division, in coordination with the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, released a comprehensive publication for resources available to homeless and low-income veterans. On-Call: Handbook for Homeless Veterans and Service Providers provides an in-depth listing of employment resources, housing assistance, health or legal services, and other support systems available to homeless veterans. Its designed for veterans who have fallen hard times and service providers who wish to connect those veterans with available assistance.

The Legion’s Homeless Veterans Roundtable is open to the public. Those who wish to attend should email Mark Walker with RSVP at mwalker@legion.org.

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