Homeless veterans: A progress report

While attending the Winterhaven Stand Down for homeless veterans on Jan. 21 in Washington, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki took time out to speak with The American Legion about recent progress in his department’s five-year plan to defeat homelessness among America’s veterans.

In his video interview, Shinseki specifically mentioned The American Legion and its efforts to help veterans with their GI Bill benefits and encourage them to successfully complete their studies. The Legion hosts education symposia every year and has a good working relationship with Student Veterans of America.

According to Shinseki, the total number of homeless veterans in America has been reduced by about 12 percent; VA is committed to eliminating homelessness among veterans by 2015.

Getting homeless veterans off the streets and into housing is what Shinseki refers to as the “rescue” part of the problem. The other part is preventive: helping at-risk veterans and their families who may be without a home if they miss getting one paycheck, or miss making one mortgage payment. Shinseki says that while the “rescue” part of the homeless veterans issue can be achieved in five years, preventing more veterans from becoming homeless in the future will take more time and greater effort.

During his interview, Shinseki also emphasized the importance of job programs for veterans as a long-term solution to homelessness. The American Legion is working with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce this year to co-sponsor about 100 career fairs this year for veterans and military spouses.