A mere two days after Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin renewed President Donald Trump’s promise to house the tens of thousands of homeless veterans in the US, he reneged on the promise and announced the department is scaling back a program that does exactly that.
As Politico reports, Shulkin and the VA are “essentially ending a special $460 million program that has dramatically reduced homelessness among chronically sick and vulnerable veterans.” Instead, they’re allocating those funds to VA hospitals to use as they please, as long as they provide “evidence of dealing with homelessness.” The move comes after a joint program announced with the Housing and Urban Development Department toured at the end of November.
On the December 1 call explaining the move to interested parties, “anger exploded” among veterans’ advocates and even HUD officials, five people who were on the call told Politico.
“I don’t understand why you are pulling the rug out,” National League of Cities housing official Elisha Harig-Blaine, who was on the call, told Politico. “You’re putting at risk the lives of men and women who’ve served this country.”
The report notes that earlier on Wednesday, HUD’s annual survey showed a 1.5 percent increase in the homeless veteran population, the first time it’s risen since 2010.
Senate Veterans’ Affairs Subcomittee member Patty Murray (D-WA) called the move “a new low,” that was “especially callous and perplexing” given the rise in veteran homelessness.
In 2016, HUD data showed that there were almost 40,000 homeless veterans living in the US.