In 2009, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the White House pledged to end homelessness among veterans by 2015. In the years since, they have funneled a considerable amount of energy and funding into the initiative, and there has been a 17 percent decline in the number of homeless veterans since. Despite the improvements, there is still some work to be done and the VA in particular has asked local businesses and organizations to help out, Military Times reports.
More than just a home
One of the biggest challenges facing the White House and VA is that, while they can help vets find housing, they can't assist them with other necessities such as furniture, utilities, supplies or paying rent. VA officials are encouraged by the decrease in the number of homeless vets, which has fallen from about 300,000 in 2003 to 60,000 in 2012, but without any furnishings in their residence, their quality of life will still suffer. Lisa Pape, director of homeless programs at VA's Veterans Health Administration, said private industries and businesses need to lend a helping hand.
"If you can prevent a veteran from falling into homelessness or being in at-risk situations, you can head off various other issues like addiction and health problems," Matt Carey, director of the District of Columbia Office of Veterans Affairs, told the news source.
Local communities helping out
Some organizations have heard the calls for help from the VA and have pitched in to improve the lives of veterans. In Washington, for instance, The Bellingham Housing Authority, Opportunity Council and health department recently took advantage of several grants to spur positive changes in the state, according to The Bellingham Herald.
Challenges lay ahead
Even as progress is made in the fight against homelessness, the need will likely continue in the coming months and years as thousands of troops return from Afghanistan. Additionally, an estimated 300,000 servicemembers are expected to separate from service each year for the near future. These challenges may be compounded by the budgetary constraints formed by sequestration. The across-the-board budget cuts have already had an impact on certain programs. According to ThinkProgress.com, approximately 100,000 homeless or formerly homeless people will no longer have access to helpful programs.