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July 01, 2012

Senate bill would assist homeless veterans

Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced ABA-supported legislation June 18 aimed at ending veteran homelessness and addressing the lack of safe and secure facilities for homeless veterans.

Murray sponsored her bill, S. 3309, in light of recent statistics showing that even though the overall number of homeless veterans decreased by 12 percent between 2010 and 2011, the number of homeless women veterans continues to increase. In addition, recent reports from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office revealed limitations in available housing options for women with children. 

The legislation, titled the Homeless Veterans Assistance Improvement Act of 2012, would allow the VA to provide transitional housing services to the children of homeless veterans where it is appropriate to do so and require grantees receiving funding for transitional housing to meet the privacy, safety and security needs of women veterans and veterans with families.    

“No veteran should have to choose between housing and their safety or between housing and remaining with their family,” Murray said when introducing the legislation.

She also noted in her statement that the annual assessment of staff of homeless veterans programs and grantees indicate that many homeless veterans have ranked legal assistance among the top 10 unmet needs for the last several years. S. 3309, she said, would ensure that a percentage of the funding available for homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing will be used for legal services to remove some of the barriers to obtaining or maintaining stable housing for homeless veterans.

The ABA, which has numerous policies supporting various approaches to ending homelessness among veterans, is involved in partnerships with the federal government and other organizations. One of the partnerships is with the VA and the Department of Health and Human Services under “Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness,” the Obama administration’s interagency plan. Other efforts include support for veteran treatment programs, smart sentencing and diversion, and the elimination of barriers to pro bono legal assistance for veterans.

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