The Department of Veterans Affairs placed 46,552 veterans in permanent housing in 2023, exceeding its goal to house 38,000 individuals in 2023 by nearly 23%.
VA officials said Tuesday the department was able to ensure that nearly 96% of those who were housed in 2023 remained in their homes, exceeding its goal for the year by nearly 1%. The VA also rehoused — or is in the process of helping — nearly all the 1,919 veterans who returned to homelessness after receiving housing.
The numbers represent a record year for the department, which has placed great emphasis on eliminating veteran homelessness. With increased funding from Congress and partnering with the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD, the VA has worked hard to get veterans off the street and into permanent homes.
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VA Secretary Denis McDonough said Tuesday that he joined volunteers in Sacramento, California, on Jan. 24 where he spoke with former service members during HUD’s annual Point-in-Time count of the homeless.
“Every veteran we met on those nights reinforces an unavoidable tragedy that there are homeless veterans in this country. This is not acceptable,” McDonough said during a press conference Tuesday in Washington, D.C.
According to the results of HUD’s 2023 Point-in-Time count, announced last month, the number of veterans who experienced homelessness in 2023 rose by 7.4% from the previous year to 35,574.
McDonough said the department is investigating the reasons for the increase but said it may be tied to the end of emergency pandemic funding used at state and local levels to provide housing to the homeless.
“We just don’t know for sure,” McDonough said. “We think that a lot of [the pandemic] impact will have been accounted for in the numbers we saw last year. … We’ll hopefully get more data by the end of the summer.”
The number of homeless veterans has fallen by 52% since 2010, when more than 76,000 service members were living on the streets or residing in hotels or with family or friends.
And although there was an uptick in 2023, homelessness among veterans has dropped by 4% overall since 2020.
Monica Díaz, executive director of the VA Homeless Programs Office, said the department is well-positioned to help veterans who are homeless as a result of a mental health disorder, substance abuse, financial distress or other reasons because it can offer programs such as health care; training and education; emergency and permanent housing; disability benefits and more once a veteran is in stable housing.
“We know what works. Veteran homelessness is solvable, and we have the right tools to do the job,” Diaz said during the press conference.
The VA officials did not announce a new housing goal for 2024 but said they will focus on this year’s Point-in-Time count and adjust for higher demand if needed.
“Each number represents renewed new hope, dignity and a future full of possibility for many of our veterans, thanks to the dedication of thousands of staff and partners nationwide,” Diaz said.
Veterans experiencing homelessness or those who are at risk of losing their homes should contact the VA at the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-424-3838.
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