Vouchers Vital to Reducing Homelessness Among Veterans

On Nov. 10, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) released a report showing that rental assistance has been central to efforts to reduce homelessness among veterans, who have made considerable progress in recent years. According to the report, more than 340,000 veterans received rental assistance as of March 2014. And between 2010 and 2014, veteran homelessness fell by 33 percent, which the CBPP says can be attributed in part to the steady increase in the number of housing vouchers dedicated to veterans since 2008.

Of the veterans who received rental assistance as of March 2014, 52 percent were elderly and 21 percent were non-elderly veterans with disabilities. A total of 121,000 children live in the homes of assisted veterans. More than one-third of assisted veterans lived in households with incomes below the poverty line and 76 percent lived in households with incomes below 200 percent of the poverty line.

Approximately 50,000 veterans received rental assistance through the HUD-Veteran Affairs Supportive Housing Voucher program (HUD-VASH), which combines Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The nearly 300,000 remaining assisted veterans received rental assistance through other federal, state, and local programs, but primarily through the three main federal rental assistance programs: the HCV program, Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance, and public housing.

While the Obama administration has made progress towards its pledge to end veteran homelessness by 2015, the report shows that further work is needed to reach all veterans facing housing challenges. An estimated 1.8 million low-income veterans are cost-burdened, spending more than 30 percent of their income on rent and utilities, and 762,000 are severely cost-burdened, paying more than 50 percent of their income on rent and utilities. Low-income veterans are those with household income below 80 percent of the area median income (AMI). In 2012, 138,000 veterans stayed in a shelter for at least one night. HUD’s Point-in-Time Count in January 2014 identified 49,900 homeless veterans.