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Friday, March 1, 2024

We must protect veterans using vouchers to end homelessness

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Emmy Hildebrand

According to the National Alliance to End Homelessness, on average, 17,000 new people enter homelessness every week in the United States. Sadly, this includes far too many veterans. In fact, veterans are more likely than non-veterans to face homelessness. In Indianapolis, veterans represent only 4% of the population but account for 11% of those experiencing homelessness in our community.

Since 1993, Helping Veterans And Families (HVAF) has been serving veterans and families facing homelessness in Central Indiana. We provide housing with intensive case management, access to mental healthcare, employment and legal services, and assistance with basic needs through our food, clothing, and hygiene pantries. Last year, 1,349 veterans received life-changing, life-saving assistance at HVAF.

Since 2010, the federal government, largely through the Department of Veterans Affairs, has expanded resources to help end veteran homelessness. Through public-private partnerships with providers like HVAF around the country, resources from the federal government provide much needed transitional housing, rental assistance, and permanent housing opportunities for those who defended our freedom. These partnerships have been successful in reducing veteran homelessness by 52% in the last 13 years, however, last year 35,574 veterans experienced homelessness, including over 15,000 veterans living unsheltered.

One key program in the fight to end veteran homelessness is a permanent supportive housing intervention known as the HUD-VASH program. This program pairs Housing Choice Vouchers from HUD with supportive services from the VA to ensure the most vulnerable veterans in our nation can obtain and maintain the stable housing they deserve. The voucher pays most of the rent, with veterans only responsible for paying up to a third of their income towards rent. There are 800 HUD-VASH vouchers allocated to veterans in Indiana, including 400 for veterans residing in Marion County.

As of 2022, 19 States, the District of Columbia, and many localities have laws in place prohibiting housing discrimination based on the source of income. Simply put, it is illegal for landlords to discriminate against those using vouchers to subsidize their housing. Unfortunately, Indiana lacks these basic protections for veterans utilizing vouchers to end their homelessness. We are proud to work with Representative Renee Pack and the Indiana Black Legislative Caucus this session to introduce legislation preventing this kind of discrimination against those who served in our military. House Bill 1087 protects Indiana veterans.

Without basic protections for voucher holders, most veterans in Marion County are forced to live in unsafe areas. 98% of veterans, many who are senior citizens, live in areas with crime ratings of D or below. We should not tolerate placing those who sacrificed on our behalf in dangerous, high crime areas of our city.

It will take all of us working together to end veteran homelessness. Protecting veterans from housing discrimination is the least we can do to thank them for their service.

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  1. I am a 70 year old homeless veteran who in the past has reached out to hvaf because I was down and out. I heard about hvaf and I swallowed my pride and asked for help. I wandered into the office and was greeted by a woman named Misha Bennett. She took me in and placed me into transitional housing. I was placed in Newton house where I resided for 13 months. Herself and Nan Nguyen turned the world upsidedown to get me on my feet. That was then and this is now. I contacted hvaf about 2 months ago and explained my situation to someone in the rapid rehousing program. I thought I was going to be alright. That’s not the case. All I seemed to be able to get was voice mail or email. Nevermind the fact that I was experiencing the worst time of my life. I just lost my car. Then my wallet was lost and someone used my bank card and overdrew my account by $2500 . Not only am I broke but now I’m also homeless with no prospects of getting permanent housing. Thank you very much!!!

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