Obama Bill to Help Get Homeless Veterans off the Streets Passes Senate Veterans Affairs Committee
IL Senator Urges Swift Consideration by Full Senate
Legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) that would improve and extend services to homeless veterans passed the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee today. The legislation was included as part of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committees omnibus bill, a bipartisan effort combining a number of pieces of legislation to improve benefits and services for veterans.
"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, but our government is doing far too little to help get these veterans off the streets. This legislation will provide some much-needed assistance to these veterans who have sacrificed so much for us."
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) estimates that one in every three homeless adult males is a veteran. Illinois is one of seven states with more than 10,000 homeless veterans. If national estimates are true in Illinois, the number of homeless veterans in Chicago is 38,000 over the course of a year. Despite the tremendous demand for homeless services, the federal government serves only a tiny fraction of those who are in need.
The legislation that passed Committee today includes a number of proposals from legislation Senator Obama had previously introduced (S.1180, the SAVE Act and S.3475 the Homes for Heroes Act) to expand and improve services for homeless veterans. The bill permanently authorizes and increases funding to $130 million per year for a competitive grant program to provide homeless services to veterans. It greatly increases a successful program to provide rental vouchers to homeless veterans. The legislation extends programs to providing treatment for veterans with mental illnesses and other special needs. And it permanently extends VA's ability to transfer property it owns to homeless shelters.
"Far too often we see men and women on street corners with handwritten signs that say 'Homeless Veteran-Will Work for Food,'" said Obama. "Sometimes we give a dollar, sometimes we just keep walking. These are soldiers who fought in World War II, Vietnam, and Iraq. They made a commitment to their country when they chose to serve - and now we must keep our commitment to them. Because when we make the decision to send our troops to war, we also make the decision to care for them, to speak for them, and to think of them - always - when they come home."