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Homelessness down among U.S. veterans

By BILL MURPHY JR. | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 13, 2011

WASHINGTON — Homelessness among U.S. veterans dropped 12 percent between 2010 and 2011, according to a report released Monday by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Speaking on a conference call with reporters, VA Secretary Eric Shinseki and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan cheered the trend and called it evidence that the Obama administration is on course to end veteran homelessness by 2014.

The homeless statistics are based on a survey taken each January, known as a “Point-in-Time” count. The January 2011 survey found 67,495 homeless veterans, down from 76,329 a year earlier.

The shift was more pronounced among “unsheltered” homeless veterans, officials said, with data reflecting a 17 percent drop in the number of veterans sleeping on streets or in other public places, as opposed to staying in shelters or other transitional housing.

“It’s nothing less than extraordinary,” said Donovan, who credited the drop in part with a change in the government’s focus from “rescuing” veterans who were sleeping on streets to trying to prevent those at risk from falling into homelessness in the first place.

The VA also announced it will make $100 million in grants available in fiscal 2012 to community agencies across the country aiming to prevent veterans and their families from falling into homelessness or to return those who do lose their homes to stable housing quickly. Last year, the VA dedicated $60 million to similar programs.

“We have an image of an individual in the height of winter … sleeping on a steam grate,” Shinseki said in a conference call with reporters. “The problems that lead to homelessness begin long before veterans and their families are on the street."

murphyjrb@stripes.osd.mil

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