December 15, 2023

Ranking Member Takano Demands Action For Homeless Veterans After Homelessness Numbers Rise

Press Contact

Libby Carlson

WASHINGTON, DC – House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Ranking Member Mark Takano (CA-39) released the following statement after the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced this year’s Point in Time (PIT) count numbers on homelessness in the United States: 

“Today’s PIT count numbers are deeply concerning, especially as winter has arrived. 

While the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is making tremendous strides in utilizing Housing First principles and quickly moving veterans into permanent housing, we know that for every veteran who secures housing, three may be falling into homelessness. We must enable tools that rapidly end a veteran’s housing insecurity and prevent veteran homelessness. VA continues to innovate in its prevention strategy, using tools like shallow subsidies and legal services to address housing insecurity before a veteran experiences homelessness, but VA needs more. In May, certain pandemic-era VA authorities to help veterans get permanently housed expired. These authorities reduced veteran homelessness by 11% during the pandemic, one of the most challenging times in recent history. I have been pushing since before the expiration of those authorities to pass the HOME Act, a bill which extends the availability of successful tools that VA needs to help stably house homeless veterans. It was clear: we needed to continue to do what was working. Now, as I feared and repeatedly warned my Republican colleagues about, the critical gains made during the pandemic are lost.  

The Republican majority has not seen worth spending their time to help homeless veterans. Their own bill, the HOME Act, would fill the basic needs of veterans experiencing homelessness to help them get on a path to stable housing. A few weeks ago, after I repeatedly asked Republican leadership, the House passed the HOME Act to get service providers and the veterans in their care the resources they need. Whether it be emergency shelter to escape the cold, a warm meal, or clothes to wear and a ride to a job interview – the HOME Act allows VA to help homeless veterans in the most fundamental ways. It also more adequately reimburses transitional housing providers for caring for homeless veterans during their journey to permanent housing. However, Republicans decided that we would not pass a straightforward bill that could go to the President for signing by the end of the year. Instead, through procedural games they forced us to pass an empty gesture. So now homeless veterans are forced to wait and once again, Republicans chose politics over what the American people want – help for our most vulnerable veterans.  

In addition to the PIT count numbers, VA recently released its annual veteran suicide prevention report that had some disturbing numbers and trends. In the report, VA found that homeless veteran suicide is at its highest point in 20 years, since the start of public reporting on veteran suicide mortality. The report found that the suicide rate for homeless veterans is 186.5% higher than for non-homeless veterans. As if we needed more evidence that getting homeless veterans into permanent housing is of the greatest import. It is not only the right thing to do, but it has a major effect on their mental wellbeing. 

I urge my colleagues in Congress to work with me to address other issues that will strengthen our homelessness response system. I know my fellow Americans would agree that no veteran should be homeless. 

That is why I am working on legislation to expand eligibility for the HUD-VASH program and other VA homeless programs. I am also working to ensure that veterans with service-connected disabilities are not excluded from accessing the permanent supportive housing built to meet their needs due to their VA benefits affecting their eligibility for such housing. Together, I know Congress, VA, HUD, and community providers can end veteran homelessness if we act with the urgency and focus this crisis warrants.”