Jonah Bennett, DCNF
As President Barack Obama prepares to leave office later this month, it’s clear he failed at one of his most ambitious goals during his presidency: putting an end to veteran homelessness.
While there has obviously been improvement in the predicament of homeless veterans, that boost is still a far cry from Obama’s original pledge in 2010 to end veteran homelessness by 2015, the Associated Press reports.
For example, according to figures cited by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, veteran homelessness effectively no longer exists in Connecticut, Delaware and Virginia, in addition to about 35 other small towns around the country.
Overall, homeless vets are down by 47 percent since 2010, but HUD data from August indicates there are approximately 40,000 left on the streets.
Numerous veterans groups have admitted that although the goal remains unmet, the ambitious nature of the goal provided them with a renewed sense of vigor, and so for them, coming within range of that goal is actually a remarkable feat.
“It has been the best kind of failure I’ve experienced,” Chris Ko, director of homeless initiatives for the United Way of Greater Los Angeles, told the Associated Press. “It’s black and white. Did we reach it? No. Did we succeed in the broader effort? Will we end veteran homelessness because of this national push? Yeah.”
In Los Angeles, there are still more than 1,200 homeless veterans, which is the highest of any other city in the country. To help ameliorate the problem, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has forwarded a $1.2-billion effort to construct 10,000 housing units for veterans by 2026.
For current Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, the national figures give reason for optimism.
“I think we’re going to make a big dent this year, and I would say within a couple of years, we should be there,” McDonald said.
McDonald believes the incoming Trump administration will keep the same level of aid coming to Los Angeles to help make sure homeless vets aren’t relegated to the streets.
“We cannot end veteran homelessness nationally without ending it in Los Angeles,” McDonald said.
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