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Seeking Beds for Homeless Vets
GAO Reports Despite Improvements, Needs Exceed VA Capacity to Provide
09/28/2007 11:01 AM ET
CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 30: A passerby drops some loose change into the can of a homeless, disabled veteran in his wheelchair looking for money along the shopping area known as the 'Magnificent Mile' on Michigan Ave.
Tim Boyle/Getty
CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 30: A passerby drops some loose change into the can of a homeless, disabled veteran in his wheelchair looking for money along the shopping area known as the 'Magnificent Mile' on Michigan Ave.

The population of homeless veterans increased by approximately 2,000 during FY 2006, according to number released in a new GAO report. Despite an increase in available beds in VA-funded transitional housing programs, GAO finds that needs far exceed available resources.

In another recent development, GAO reports VA is working to figure out how to accommodate a changing population that is increasingly seeing females and other vets with dependents struggling with homelessness.

GAO reports that VA's annual survey in 2006 found that on any given night 196,000 veterans were homeless, and increase from 194,000 in 2005--a number that represents a third overall of the homeless population in the US.

The beds made available through various VA programs in FY 2006 was 40,600, an almost 5,000-bed increase from the previous year, but still far from the estimated need for 51,700.

The VA numbers don't get into the specifics of how many of the homeless have served in Iraq, though they estimate 40% of the total are Vietnam vets, and about 4,000 served the Persian Gulf, Iraq, or Afghanistan since 1990.

Fifty percent are between the ages of 45 and 54, with 30% older and 20% younger. African-Americans are disproportionately represented at 46% of the overall total, roughly equal to the total of non-Hispanic whites. Men make up "almost all" of homeless vets, but GAO reports VA has acknowledged a growing number of women and vets with dependents entering the system.

Service providers in the VA-funded transitional housing network told the GAO that in 2006, "women veterans had sought transitional housing; some recent admissions had dependents; and a few of their beds were occupied by the children of veterans, for whom VA could not provide reimbursement."

VA's reimbursement policy only covers the costs of those who have served in the military--not any dependents. GAO reports VA officials said that they "may have to reconsider" the types of funding and services they provide in order to address the needs of the changing homeless population.

Bed Capacity, Service and Communication Gaps Challenge the Grant and Per Diem Program

Highlights d071265thigh.pdf Full Report d071265t.pdf

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