Senate Approves Obama Bill Providing $40 million for Homeless Veterans and Veterans Employment
WASHINGTON - The Senate today unanimously approved legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) that would provide $28 million in additional funding to help homeless veterans and $12 million dollars to increase employment services for veterans as part of the 2007 budget.
"Each and every night, more than 200,000 of our nation's veterans are homeless," said Obama. "More than 400,000 will experience homelessness over the course of a year. In my home of Chicago, as many as 38,000 veterans spend a night homeless over the course of a year, but our government is doing far too little to help these veterans find homes and employment."
Obama said his legislation would help homeless veterans by increasing funding for the Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP), which provides food, clothing, mental health and substance abuse counseling, and employment and housing assistance to homeless veterans.
The President's budget funds HVRP at less than half the intended level. Obama said that with its funding diminished, HVRP would only be able to assist 16,250 veterans next year, which amounts to less than one third of the homeless veterans in the Chicago area alone.
Obama said his amendment would allow the program to help more than twice that many veterans. "This funding would put a roof over the head of another 20,000 homeless veterans and would take another step towards ending the shame of a nation that allows those who risked their lives in war to come home to a life on the streets."
Obama said the legislation would also provide an additional $12 million to the Department of Labor to improve jobs services for hard-to-place veterans. Earlier this year, Obama voiced concern about the fact that Illinois ranks dead last in job-placement rates for veterans.
"According to Labor Department statistics, only 34 percent of Illinois veterans who seek assistance find jobs," said Obama. "That's almost half the national average of 62 percent and nine points lower than the second-worst state. Part of the solution to this problem is to increase funding for this program, which is why I am extremely pleased that this legislation passed the Senate today."
Last year, Senator Obama has emerged as a leader on the issue of Homeless Veterans. He introduced the Sheltering All Veterans Everywhere Act (SAVE Act) to strengthen services for homeless veterans. The SAVE Act reauthorizes and expands two critical programs that serve veterans the HVRP and the Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program, which helps local governments and non-profit organizations build, improve, maintain and staff homeless shelters and service operations. The SAVE Act would double funding for the GPD program to $200 million and extend HVRP to help prevent homelessness for at-risk veterans.
Senator Obama is a member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.