November 4, 2005

Commentary:

Homeless Veterans

By R. James Nicholson
Secretary of Veterans Affairs

As we observe National Homeless Week from November 1-7, it is important for all Americans to reflect on the fact that approximately 200,000 veterans may be homeless on any given night.

This is a troubling statistic.

These men and women served our nation during its times of need, and many now live with inadequate shelter, food or medical care. They were our country’s defenders and should be provided every opportunity to live in dignity and security. That is why VA, with the unwavering support of President Bush and Congress, continues to provide vital funding for programs that help our heroes in need.

Recently, as a part of our outreach efforts, I was pleased to announce a series of grants — $14 million nationwide to 72 groups – further expanding the number of community beds provided to our veterans by public and community non-profit and faith-based organizations in every state in the nation and the District of Columbia.

Only through dedicated partnerships with community and faith-based organizations, like those championed by the President and this Administration, can we hope to end chronic homelessness among the men and women who have served our country in uniform.

VA’s partnerships with these organizations are an important part of what is, overall, the largest integrated network of homeless assistance programs in the country. VA is the federal agency that provides the most substantial one-on-one contact with the homeless. In many cities and rural areas, VA social workers and other clinicians conduct extensive outreach programs; clinical assessments; medical treatment; alcohol and drug abuse counseling; employment assistance; and provide domiciliary residential support.

VA’s Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans provides medical care and rehabilitation in a residential setting at 34 VA medical centers. At any one time, this program provides more than 5,000 homeless veterans with medical and psychiatric evaluation; treatment, vocational counseling and rehabilitation; and post-discharge community support.

Another important VA homeless outreach program is Veterans Industries. In this program, disadvantaged, at-risk, and homeless veterans live in community-based supervised group homes while working for pay in VA’s Compensated Work Therapy Program (also known as Veterans Industries). VA contracts with private industry and the public sector for work done by these veterans, who learn new job skills, relearn successful work habits, and regain a sense of self-worth.

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