Veterans Day is the one day a year when our country collectively honors military veterans for their service, though those who face housing instability are often forgotten.
Last week, an 11 percent reduction in veteran homelessness since 2020 was announced. A variety of factors contributed to this success, including implementing best practices like Housing First; dedicated national and local leadership; scaling up investments; and enhancing the variety of housing and support options available to veterans in a crisis.
Despite this success, there are still over 33,000 veterans homeless on any night – that should not be acceptable on Veterans Day or any day. In our collective work to end veteran homelessness, a constant struggle is the housing market for veterans who are exiting homelessness. This forces extremely low-income veterans into paying more rent than they can afford and making hard choices between housing and food or utilities or other essential needs.
To see continued declines in veteran homelessness, we must focus our collective efforts on securing dedicated housing for veterans in any response to remedy the nation’s affordable housing crisis.
Every community should have a pipeline of veteran affordable housing in development, and it is important to create this pipeline in conjunction with local organizations that serve veterans, your local VAMC (VA Medical Center), and with the input of people experiencing homelessness. This ensures housing will meet the needs of your community’s veterans and it helps ensure the right mix of services and supports can be available. Seasons 1 and 2 of NCHV’s podcast, The Road Home, profile the funding mechanisms and innovative project types that communities have used to build out this pipeline.
Second, we recently had an election, but good citizenry doesn’t stop at the polls. Rather, it demands that we hold elected officials accountable for meeting our most basic needs for all, including our most vulnerable neighbors. Many communities had bond measures on their general election ballot to help finance affordable housing for their neighbors. Developers and other housing organizations can play a key role in local organizing efforts to encourage community leaders to commit funding so that everyone can access high quality affordable housing.
Communities can also support prioritization of veteran affordable housing projects as states review LIHTC (Low Income Housing Tax Credit) allocation plans. In 2022, 4 states included veterans for special population set asides, 7 awarded additional points for projects that set aside units for veterans, and 3 focused on veteran preference in tenant selection. NCHV’s 2022 QAP Analysis and toolkit offers a good starting point to engage in that work with your community partners.
For all that veterans have done for our country, we owe it to them to offer a hand up in finding affordable housing. Military service is a year-round commitment, so our commitment to veterans should be year-round. Help us bring veterans home, year-round, by partnering to create dedicated affordable housing stock for veterans exiting homelessness.
Visit www.nchv.org to learn about the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans and join our Coalition.