Homeless vets roundtable set for convention

The American Legion’s Economic Division will host its Homeless Veterans Roundtable at National Convention in Indianapolis to discuss veterans homelessness and where VA stands on its pledge to end it. Officials from VA, the Departments of Labor and Housing and Urban Development, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, and local community service providers are expected to be on hand at the downtown Marriott Hotel on Aug. 24 to discuss the various initiatives and programs that have been rolled out in coordination with VA’s five-year plan to stop veterans homelessness.

The roundtable comes at the halfway point of the plan. Nearly two and a half years ago, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced an ambitious goal to end veterans homelessness by 2015. The pledge came with a projected $3.2 billion backing, innovative strategies to tackle the problem and some criticism from veterans advocates who viewed the promise as grandiose or unrealistic.

"The roundtable will discuss where we are at in terms of progress toward the goal of ending veterans homelessness," said Mark Walker, deputy director for the Legion’s Economic Division. "There have been some good things done and some real momentum in assisting homeless veterans and their families. VA has programs that are working, and VA is reaching out to their partners as well to help."

Last month, VA awarded $100 million in grants to local organizations that aid low-income veterans and their families nationwide. The funding reached 151 community agencies, spanning 49 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. In fiscal year 2011, VA contributed $800 million toward veterans homelessness programs.

Still, it’s estimated that around 67,500 veterans are homeless on any given night.

"This roundtable is about seeing where VA is at," Walker said. "Obviously, work remains. The Legion and others who are attending want to work toward making sure the gaps are bridged between what has been done and what still needs to be done."