Colleen Sharkey | September 11, 2019
Homelessness is a persistent and significant public policy and public health challenge, disproportionately affecting veterans. However, the fiscal year 2020 budget negotiated between President Donald Trump and Speaker Nancy Pelosi includes no growth in funding for the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) voucher program.
These vouchers provide chronically homeless veterans with a permanent residence and supportive services to help get their lives back on track. Since 2008, almost 100,000 homeless veterans have benefited from these vouchers, and over this period the number of homeless veterans in the U.S. dropped by roughly 45 percent.
Research led by William Evans, co-founder of the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) at the University of Notre Dame, confirms that for every HUD-VASH voucher distributed, one fewer veteran is living on the streets.
“There are few government programs with convincing evidence that the program is delivering as promised,” said Evans, whose study conducted with other Notre Dame researchers was recently published in the American Journal of Public Health. “In contrast, HUD-VASH is working as intended at a very large scale. These budget cuts come at a critical time, as the number of post-9/11 veterans is expected to grow rapidly in the next few years. This group is particularly vulnerable to being homeless.”
In late 2018, HUD Secretary Ben Carson specifically credited HUD-VASH vouchers, a program started during the Clinton administration and expanded under President George W. Bush, as one of the most effective tools in combating veteran homelessness. The HUD-VASH program is administered through nonprofits where social workers implement a holistic approach to tackling issues veterans face, including homelessness and lack of health care.
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