U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar announced that her bipartisan legislation to help fight homelessness among America's veterans has passed the Senate. Klobuchar obtained 18 Democratic and Republican cosponsors for the bill, which passed as part of broader legislation. The legislation would improve homeless services outreach to rural and underserved urban veterans. Specifically, it strengthens an existing program that provides chronically homeless veterans with housing vouchers and case management services, such as help accessing counseling and job training. A 2009 survey of homelessness by Wilder Research found the number of homeless veterans in Minnesota at an all-time high.According to figures released by the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development, approximately 14 percent of all homeless adults are veterans.
"There wasn't a waiting line when our men and women in uniform raised their right hands and volunteered to serve our country, and there shouldn't be a waiting line when they return home and need our help to get back on their feet," Klobuchar said. "This is an important step forward for this legislation that would create partnerships to extend essential services to homeless veterans who are currently living on the streets or in shelters."
"Senator Klobuchar's dedicated attention to the needs of Minnesota's veterans has been vital to ensuring they receive the support and opportunities they deserve,"said Kathleen Vitalis, President and CEO of the Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans. "Her particular focus on supporting homeless veterans -- especially underserved rural veterans -- has been critical, and I want to thank Senator Klobuchar for her hard work to see this great bill signed into law."
The 2009 Wilder Research survey found that nearly 700 individuals in Minnesota who previously served in the U.S. military were homeless on any given night. Minnesota saw its number of homeless veterans increase by seven percent from 2006 to 2009 and the number of homeless women veterans more than doubled.
In 2010, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) made a commitment to end veteran homelessness by 2015. Klobuchar's provision would help the VA extend services to rural and underserved urban veterans by strengthening the existing HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program to authorize and encourage the VA to partner with eligible state and local governments, tribal organizations, and community-based service providers to provide homeless veterans with access to HUD-VASH housing vouchers and case management services. The bill requires the VA to consult with community providers to ensure all needy veterans are served.
The legislation is endorsed by 27 veterans and social service organizations. They include:
* Veterans of Foreign Wars
* American Legion
* Disabled Veterans of America
* Paralyzed Veterans of America
* Vietnam Veterans of America
* Military Officers Association of America
* National Association of County Veterans Service Officers
* Veterans of Modern Warfare
* VetsFirst (a program of United Spinal Association)
* Student Veterans of America
* National Guard Association
* Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV)
* Heading Home Minnesota
* National Coalition for Homeless Veterans
* National Alliance to End Homelessness
* Corporation for Supportive Housing
* National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty
* Common Ground
* National Leased Housing Association
* Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities
* Easter Seals
* Mental Health America
* National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors
* National Association of State Head Injury Administrators
* National Council on Independent Living
* National Disability Rights Network