Senator Richard Burr
March 24, 2010
Good morning, Mr. Chairman. Thank you for calling this important hearing, and welcome to our witnesses.
There are few issues I care more deeply about than making sure we end homelessness among those who have worn the nation’s uniform.
The President and the Secretary have set an ambitious goal to end homelessness in 5 years. It’s going to be tough, but I am committed to work toward that goal.
According to VA, 107,000 veterans were homeless on any given night last year, including an estimated 1,589 in my home state of North Carolina. Although those numbers represent an improvement over prior years, we still have much work to do.
Let there be no mistake, however. The goal is not just to end homelessness in five years. It’s also to make sure that the solutions are sustainable beyond the five years.
I’ve said it many times before; the only way to end homelessness is to ensure that it never begins in the first place.
Prevention is the key. We must develop successful programs to target the estimated 27,000 veterans who are at risk of falling into that cycle every year. We must also think smarter about where and how we invest in homelessness programs.
Too often in the past we’ve been happy to point at the dollars we’ve thrown at the problem, without any real accountability for results, or an understanding of how public and private resources could better coordinate services with each other.
I believe we have some models of success out there that provide us with a promising way forward. I am pleased that Mr. Dennis Parnell, President of the Healing Place of Wake County, North Carolina, accepted the invitation to testify today.
Through its public/private partnerships, the Healing Place is able to boast of a sobriety recovery rate of over 68% one year after individuals complete the program---that success rate is 3 times the national average. And this success leads directly to the Healing Place’s stellar record in reducing homelessness in Wake County.
Today, I am anxious to hear about the Secretary’s plan to move forward. No doubt that his plan will require Congress’ involvement.
Unfortunately, I’ve been disappointed about the Administration’s collaboration with us so far. Last October, the Committee held a hearing on comprehensive homeless legislation, S. 1547, but received no official views from VA on the bill.
In the absence of any views, the Committee marked up the legislation in January with the expectation that VA would be providing us with a greater understanding of how it fits in with the Secretary’s plan. Five months and multiple inquiries later, we received the views last night, giving my staff no opportunity to do a thorough analysis of the information. Of course, this is not the first time VA waits until the 11th hour to provide responses to inquiries they have had for months. This is also not the first time I have had to raise this problem.
I don’t understand the delay. Why does it take VA five months to provide Congress with the crucial information we need to do the best job we can for our veterans? We need to figure out what legislative action is required of Congress to accomplish the Secretary’s plan and authorize the funding the Administration has requested.
The bottom line is this: we need to get this right. There is so much at stake. We need to make sure we have all the information we need to allocate resources in the most effective way possible to help our veterans.
Mr. Chairman, I will aggressively pursue this question with the VA witness.
Again, I thank all of the witnesses for their testimony today and yield back.
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