Tester Holds Roundtable Discussion on Tackling Veteran Homelessness with Advocates

Chairman seeks path forward on ways to better serve veterans facing homelessness in Montana and across the country

Virtual roundtable meeting screenshot.(U.S. Senate) – Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester held a roundtable discussion today with committee members, stakeholders, and veterans’ advocates on crafting solutions to effectively end veteran homelessness nationwide.

At the roundtable, Tester engaged stakeholders in a constructive dialogue on ways to tackle challenges facing veterans experiencing or at-risk of homelessness now, and beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We need to make sure organizations on the front lines of veteran homelessness are getting the support they need to serve their communities, while also ensuring funding and resources are going to the locations and communities most in need,” said Chairman Tester. “That’s what brings us here today: to learn from the people on the ground working to solve the problem of veteran homelessness. We are here to discuss solutions, not only to stem the tide of fallout from the pandemic, but also to effectively house and care for all of our nation’s veterans in the long-term.”

Following a push from Tester, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) released its annual report on homelessness last month—a major resource for Congress in making decisions about how to legislate and allocate resources to respond to unhoused veterans. While the number of unhoused or precariously housed veterans has dropped by 50 percent over the last decade, pre-pandemic numbers from HUD’s Point-in-Time (PIT) count for January 2020 showed increases in unsheltered veterans, individuals with disproportionate access to housing and most vulnerable to the spread of infectious diseases such as COVID-19.

Tester’s roundtable hosted VA, HUD, and Department of Labor officials, advocates, along with representatives from the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, National American Indian Housing Council, United States Veterans Initiative, Catholic Charities in Wichita, San Diego Housing Commission, and The Poverello Center.

“I’m grateful to Chairman Tester, Ranking Member Moran, and the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for holding this important discussion in the wake of a slight increase in veterans experiencing homelessness noted in HUD's 2020 PIT count,” said Kathryn Monet, CEO of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans. “Today’s roundtable must result in sustained Congressional oversight of the Administration's implementation of evidence-based solutions intended to address the needs of veterans and provide them with affordable housing. Further, it must result in a renewed focus on ensuring over-represented and underserved groups of veterans are able to access supports that resolve their housing instability, and the underlying issues that contribute to their becoming homeless.”

“Thank you to Chairman Jon Tester, Ranking Member Jerry Moran, and the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for holding this important conversation and making it a priority,” said Jill Bonny, Director of Veteran Services at The Poverello Center. “According to HUD’s annual PIT count, since 2010 the number of veterans experiencing homelessness has been declining, until 2020, when this number increased. We are working hard in Montana to collaborate and find housing for all of our veterans. This work is extremely important and will take commitment from stakeholders, advocacy groups, and others to restart the progress we’ve made in ending veteran homelessness.”

“No veteran should suffer from homelessness,” said Tony Walters, Executive Director at the National American Indian Housing Council (NAIHC). “NAIHC wants to thank Chairman Jon Tester, Ranking Member Jerry Moran and the full Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs for holding this roundtable to identify resources and best practices that will help provide safe, affordable housing and support for all veterans and their families. Native Americans have always served the United States military in record numbers, so I am happy that tribal communities and their veterans are included in today’s discussion.”

As the top Democrat on the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Tester introduced the Grant Regulation Adjustment during the Coronavirus Emergency (GRACE) for Homeless Veterans Act of 2020 last Congress, legislation removing barriers to VA funding for Grant and Per Diem grantees working to end veteran homelessness. The Senator successfully secured this legislation as part of an end-of-year veterans’ package to better address the needs of veterans nationwide. Following Tester's efforts to cut red tape, VA announced $50 million in Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding for VA capital grants to help organizations mitigate the spread of the coronavirus and protect homeless veterans during the pandemic.