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Mr. McKINLEY. Thank you, Congressman Bilirakis and Chairman Miller, for bringing this bill to the floor today.
Let me take this opportunity to highlight a segment of the portion dealing with safe housing for homeless veterans. I had previously sponsored this concern in a separate piece of legislation, and it was subsequently amended into this bill that's before us today.
Currently, there are 2,100 community-based homeless veterans service providers across the country and many other homeless assistance programs that have demonstrated impressive success reaching homeless veterans. I've visited some of the shelters in my home district in West Virginia and was struck by how many were not, unfortunately, in compliance with State, local, or Federal building and fire codes.
Consequently, we began to investigate how broad based this issue was across America. It was unsettling to learn about shelter fires where lives have been lost. There's stories of a homeless shelter fire where occupants were killed due to the fact that there was not a required sprinkler system at the facility or dozens were injured when a sprinkler system was not working properly or where doors were closed that needed to be opened.
All of these could have been avoided. Unfortunately, there is no law mandating a homeless shelter meet building and fire safety codes, only a policy within the VA. As a licensed professional engineer, I found this to be an egregious omission in the law concerning homeless shelters for veterans.
The language in this bill would require any organization that seeks funding for VA for services to homeless veterans have documentation that their building meets or exceeds all building codes. This is commonsense legislation that could ensure the well-being of veterans all across America who have fallen on hard times and are in need of the most assistance. As a Nation, it should be unacceptable for us to allow homeless veterans to be housed in potentially unsafe conditions.
I appreciate the support of this legislation and this provision from the American Legion, the Homeless Veterans Coalition, the International Code Council, and the Fire Marshals Association.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman, for including this language in the bill today and for your concern for the safety and the living environment of our veterans.
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