Homeless Veterans

The issue of homelessness among our veteran population is a serious concern to Senator Murray.  Every year, anywhere from 300,000 to 400,000 veterans experience homelessness, and every night as many as 200,000 veterans find themselves without a place to sleep. 

It is shocking that those who heroically served America in the military should find themselves struggling to find a bed to sleep in or a meal to eat.  Veterans of the Vietnam era are disproportionately represented among homeless veterans.  In fact, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the number of homeless veterans from the Vietnam era today is greater than the number of service persons that died during that war.  Tragically, this nation is now also seeing an influx of new veterans returning from service in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Many of these veterans’ problems are compounded with struggles against mental illness, substance abuse, or simply finding a steady income to afford a place to live.    

Though local organizations and communities across America have taken the initiative to create plans to end homelessness, they should not be expected to bear this burden alone. 

As a member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, and as the chair of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD), Senator Murray has worked on a bipartisan basis to provide real help to homeless veterans.

She has used her role as Chair of the THUD Appropriations Subcommittee to secure funding for an innovative joint program between the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide thousands of homeless veterans with housing vouchers and case management services so that they have access to safe and stable housing and get the services they need.  These vouchers will give communities important tools to help end homelessness for the many veterans who are now living on our streets and in shelters.  Senator Murray is also fighting to fund programs aimed at preventing veterans from becoming homeless. 

Senator Murray also introduced first-of-its-kind legislation that focuses specifically on helping homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children.  The Homeless Women Veterans and Homeless Veterans with Children Act (S. 1237) would extend federal grant programs to help local organizations provide services including transitional housing, job training, counseling, and child care to the children of homeless veterans. Statistics show that the numbers of homeless women veterans and homeless veterans with children are on the rise. In fact, in many parts of Washington state transitional housing units for families are filled as quickly as they become available.

The consequences of inadequate care for our veterans are great.  Senator Murray raised the red flags about insufficient resources for the VA early in our current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Whereas most Vietnam-era veterans fell into homelessness a decade or more after returning from service, it is disappointing that Americans are already seeing the cost of this war on our Iraq and Afghanistan veterans who are ending up homeless.

The government must take steps to end homelessness for the many veterans living on our streets, and it must prevent more of our returning veterans from becoming homeless.