Late yesterday Congressman Scott Peters (CA-52) introduced another piece of legislation: the Shelter Our Servicemembers (SOS) Act to help address San Diego's significant elderly homeless veteran population. Each night in the United States nearly 63,000 veterans are homeless, and more than a third of them are over the age of 55.
"San Diego has the third largest population of homeless veterans in the country, many of whom are seniors who need health care and other services, but most of all they need housing first," Peters said. "This bill is aptly named the SOS Act because the men and women it will help are among our most vulnerable vets; they need our help now. We must ensure that our senior veterans don't fall through the cracks."
"Affordable housing for senior veterans, along with appropriate case management, is a badly needed resource for senior veterans within the community of San Diego," said Phil Landis, CEO of Veterans Village San Diego, an organization that is a nationally recognized leader in serving homeless military veterans.
Through the establishment of a grant pilot program, administered through the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), this bill is intended to provide senior veterans permanent, nontransitional housing and the stability they need to be able to take advantage of the "wraparound' health care and social services provided by local nonprofit organizations. While many existing programs focus heavily on homeless veterans under the age of 35, this legislation would highlight the at-risk senior veterans population.
"The VA and HUD have worked to eliminate homelessness among America's veterans through a number of valuable, specialized homeless assistance programs," Peters continued. "But we have to do more to serve and protect the men and women who sacrificed greatly to serve and protect us."
With the third largest overall homeless population in the country -- and third largest group of unsheltered veterans -- Peters said San Diego has the opportunity to provide a model of care that combines housing and case management to significantly decrease the number of veterans living on the street. Studies have shown that with housing stability comes the ability to deal with illnesses and plan for the future, while resulting in a 44 percent cost reduction for our justice system, health services, and other public assistance programs.
The SOS Act targets the senior veterans segment of the homeless population with a method of care that studies have shown to be successful, and builds on the continuing work of both local government and nonprofit groups that are working to provide housing and wraparound services each day.