The men and women who have worn a military uniform have made incredible sacrifices to preserve our freedoms and keep us safe. Unfortunately, these same men and women have been particularly vulnerable to homelessness once their service is complete.
No former member of our armed forces should ever find themselves without a home and without resources to turn to for assistance. As a nation, we have a moral obligation to ensure they are taken care of once they leave the military. Earlier this year, I hosted a Homeless Veterans Summit, where we brought together the U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Bob McDonald, representatives from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), as well as a number of community stakeholders to discuss strategies to end homelessness among former service members in Ohio. We discussed that while there are many local housing programs that work diligently to reduce homelessness in our communities, too many of our veterans remain on the streets as they do not qualify for housing assistance through the VA.
Recently, I introduced the Housing our Military Servicemembers (HOMeS) Act — legislation that will incentivize and reward local housing programs that receive federal grants to further support homeless veterans. HUD distributed approximately $133 million of “bonus” funding last year to affordable housing organizations that serve vulnerable populations. The HOMeS Act will help elevate the profile of veterans and former service members for HUD homeless housing incentives, by explicitly including them as an eligible subpopulation for these payments in the U.S. Code.
Though this legislation will not solve the problem of veteran homelessness completely, it is an important step forward. As communities, we need to continue finding new ways to connect veterans to the services they need, including housing, jobs and healthcare. This month, the Columbus community came together for the Central Ohio Homeless Veterans Stand Down, where veterans were able to receive free medical and mental health checkups, legal services, housing services, clothing, haircuts and a meal. Efforts like this are critical for connecting veterans to the necessary resources to help them get back on their feet.
As we approach Veterans Day in November, I hope you will take time to consider how we can better give back to our veterans who have given so much to us. Whether voting on legislation in Washington or assisting you with a federal agency, it is my honor to serve you, and I look forward to hearing from you. Feel free to call my Washington, D.C. office at (202) 225-2015, Hilliard office at (614) 771-4968, Lancaster office at (740) 654-2654 or Wilmington office at (937) 283-7049 with any questions or comments you have about issues facing the federal government.
Steve Stivers is a member of Congress from Ohio’s 15th Congressional District.