HOMELESS VETERANS ASSISTANCE REAUTHORIZATION ACT OF 2004 -- (Extensions of Remarks - April 29, 2004)
HON. CHRISTOPHER H. SMITH
OF NEW JERSEY
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
THURSDAY, APRIL 29, 2004
Mr. SMITH of New Jersey. Mr. Speaker, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that there are 200,000 or more homeless veterans living on the streets on any given night. Other organizations dedicated to assisting homeless populations believe that that number is higher, closer to 300,000. Either number is far too high and a national travesty. For these veterans, access to VA benefits, specialized services and effective outreach are vital components to any hope of individual stability and improvement in their prospects.
With the passage of Public Law 107-95, the Homeless Veterans Comprehensive Assistance Act of 2001, Congress established the goal of ending chronic homelessness in the veteran population within a decade. Today, I am introducing H.R. 4248 along with Mr. EVANS of Illinois, the Committee's ranking member, that would extend the authority of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to continue making grants to expand or modify existing programs for homeless veterans. The current authority for this program will expire in September 2005 without this legislation. VA also requested an increase in the grant and per diem program spending limit from $75 million to $100 million, in its fiscal year 2005 medical care budget proposal. This legislation would authorize that spending increase along with extending the program authority through 2008.
The VA's Homeless Grant and Per Diem program provides competitive grants to community-based, faith-based, and public organizations to offer transitional housing or service centers for homeless veterans. Between grants and per diem-only awards, VA is contributing support for approximately 10,000 community-based supportive housing beds and services to homeless veterans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Current recipients of these funds are contributing in very significant ways to the fulfillment of the objective to reduce homelessness among veterans.
Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the homeless veterans who need these services and the programs that are achieving successful outcomes, I urge my colleagues to support this measure.