(Washington, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) spoke on the Senate floor to urge her colleagues to support of the Homeless Women Veterans and Homeless Veterans With Children Act. Prior to her speech, Murray met with Natalie, a former member of the Navy and single parent of two boys from Issaquah, Washington who became homeless in 2007. Natalie has since found support through transitional housing programs and is now in permanent housing in Washington state. Earlier this morning, Natalie and Senator Murray attended the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) to participate in the unveiling of the Federal Strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness.
Senator Murray told Natalie’s story on the Senate floor, and urged her colleagues to support this bill to help families like Natalie’s in Washington state and across the country.
Senator Murray’s bill, S.1237, would expand assistance for homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children and would increase funding and extend federal grant programs to address the unique challenges faced by these veterans. It was introduced in June of 2009 and passed the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee on January 28, 2010.
The full text of Senator Murray’s speech follows:
“Mr. President, I rise today in support of S. 1237, the Homeless Veterans and Other Veterans Health Care Authorities Act of 2010.
“I just had the opportunity to meet with an amazing woman named Natalie and her two children who are actually here in the gallery right now.
“Natalie is currently living in Issaquah in my home state of Washington—but she’s been through some tough times over the past few years.
“She is a Navy veteran and a single mom. But she became homeless in 2007 when she couldn’t find work and had to move out of the house she was staying in.
“Natalie wanted nothing more than to provide her two children with the stable and loving home every family deserves—so she fought to secure transitional housing, and she was very fortunate to find a program called Hopelink in Washington state that gave her the support she needed to get back on her feet.
“Natalie is now back in stable housing, taking care of her children, and advancing in her nursing career—and she is here in Washington, D.C today to help make sure no other family has to face the challenges she overcame so bravely.
“Because unfortunately, Mr. President, not every family gets the support that Natalie’s did.
“Homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children are two terribly vulnerable groups that are growing by the day.
“Back in my home state of Washington, Veterans Service Organizations and homeless providers have told me they are seeing more homeless veterans coming for help than ever before. And unfortunately, more and more of these veterans are women, have young children, or both.
“In fact, female veterans are between two and four times as likely to be homeless than their civilian counterparts—and they have unique needs and often require specialized services.
“So Mr. President, that’s why I introduced the Homeless Women Veterans and Homeless Veterans with Children Act with Senator Jack Reed and Senator Tim Johnson.
“This legislation would take three big steps forward toward tackling the serious problems facing this vulnerable group.
“First of all, it would make more front-line homeless service providers eligible to receive Special Needs Grants.
“This would help organizations in Washington state and across the country help support families like Natalie’s.
“It would also expand Special Needs Grants to cover homeless male veterans with children, as well as the dependents of homeless veterans themselves.
“And it would extend the Department of Labor’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program to provide: workforce training, job counseling, child care services, and placement services to homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.
“Because it is so important that we not just provide immediate support—but that we also make sure our veterans have the resources and support they need to get back on their feet.
“Mr. President, in addition to helping homeless veterans, S. 1237 also includes a number of other provisions aimed at supporting our nation’s heroes.
“It extends eligibility to health care for certain veterans with disabilities who served in the Persian Gulf War.
“It would establish a Medical Center Report Card to allow veterans and their families access to transparent performance comparisons between VA facilities and between VA and non-VA sites. And it would direct the VA to enable State veterans’ homes to admit parents who had a child die while serving in the Armed Forces.
“Mr. President, this is a very personal issue for me. Growing up, I saw firsthand the many ways military service can affect both veterans and their families.
“My father served in World War II and was among the first soldiers to land on Okinawa. He came home as a disabled veteran and was awarded the Purple Heart.
“Like many soldiers of his generation, my father didn’t talk about his experiences during the war. In fact, we only really learned about them by reading his journals after he passed away. And I think that experience offers a larger lesson about veterans in general. They are reluctant to call attention to their service, and they are reluctant to ask for help.
“That's why we've got to publicly recognize their sacrifices and contributions.
“It's up to us to make sure that they get the recognition they have earned.
“And it’s up to us to guarantee they get the services and support they deserve.
Mr. President, this bill passed through the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee with strong bi-partisan support.
“Because supporting our veterans shouldn’t be about politics—it should be about what kind of country we want the United States to be. And about what our priorities are as a nation.
“In his second inaugural address in 1865, President Lincoln said our nation had an obligation to ‘care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan.’
“Well, in 2010, I believe we not only need to care for HIM—we need to care for HER. And for his and her families. And for every man and woman coming home after serving our country so bravely.
“And that’s why, Mr. President, I am proud to stand here today for Natalie, her children, and families just like hers across the country—
“And urge my colleagues to support S. 1237, the Homeless Veterans and Other Veterans Health Care Authorities Act Of 2010.
“Thank you Mr. President, I yield the floor.”