UPDATED 6:37 AM PT — Friday, August 23, 2019
The House Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity is looking to the west for answers to solve the homeless veterans issue. Chairman Mike Levin led the field hearing Thursday in Oceanside, which is part of Levin’s district and home to Camp Pendleton.
The congressmen heard testimony at a VA resource center in California, a state the Veteran Affairs Committee’s chairman Mark Takano said is where a quarter of all homeless veterans are located. Members of Congress have been searching for ways to improve the coordination between agencies trying to reduce the number of homeless veterans on both local and national levels.
Levin reminded the panel how the Veteran Affairs Committee had committed in 2009 to ending veteran homelessness by the year 2015, but failed to do so.
“There’s no question that we’ve taken significant steps to get our heroes the services they need with roughly 50,000 fewer veterans experiencing homelessness than a decade ago,” he stated.
The subcommittee’s ranking member Gus Bilirakis clarified there are some communities where that goal of housing all veterans has already been achieved, and he said the veterans housing voucher program through Housing and Urban Development is just one way to do that.
“It is even more critical for the long-term success of these veterans that they also receive comprehensive wraparound services that help them find meaningful employment,” said Bilirakis.
The congressman sponsored a bill passed by the House in July that increases adaptive housing funds for disabled veterans. That measure is now in the Senate.
San Diego County supervisor Nathan Fletcher was one of the panel witnesses. He described several challenges when trying to build housing for veterans who are poor and might have mental health issues or addictions.
“Part of this is community opposition — we have to design projects, we have to put together things that we know are going to work right,” he explained. “We can’t have a devastating project, we can’t put a hundred story tower in the middle of a residential area.”
Fletcher said another integral part in solving the homeless veterans issue is transportation, especially in urban areas where there is higher density when it comes to housing and jobs.