Homeless veterans accounted for in new budget

According to the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida, the number of homeless veterans in Central Florida jumped from 1,185 in 2008 to 1,680 in 2009. Today, homeless veterans represent 23 percent of the entire homeless population in the United States. It has been noted that as thousands of troops leave Iraq and Afghanistan and head home, many struggle to find their way back into the workforce. Our former heroes too often find themselves without a sustainable income and living on the streets.

At Coalition for the Homeless, we house residents who have served in the armed forces and are struggling to return to a civilian lifestyle. We know from over 20 years of working with homeless individuals that the needs of veterans are many and great.

In his FY 2010 budget, President Obama pledged to end homelessness among veterans by proposing a 15 percent increase in funding to the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Along with this increase, he hopes to establish a national “zero tolerance policy” for homelessness among veterans. The budget increase will expand medical coverage for veterans, as well as fund housing programs and job training. Following this increase, The White House has also proposed to set aside $4.2 billion dollars of the FY 2011 budget to reduce and prevent homelessness among veterans. This money would increase health care funding for veterans, assist in development of Centers for Excellence, and increase access to mental and cognitive care. More information on this plan of action can be found by reading the budget fact sheet.

But what’s happening to help homeless vets in Florida?

Currently, efforts are being implemented to help Florida’s homeless veterans. For example, construction recently began on the Center for Drug Free Living in Cocoa Beach, FL. This transitional housing complex will provide shelter for many of Central Florida’s homeless female veterans.  The Volunteers of America of Florida initiated a mobile service center for veterans and have already provided crucial health services to thousands of homeless veterans throughout Florida. Innovative programs such as the Center for Drug Free Living and the mobile service center are a positive beginning to addressing the needs of Florida’s homeless veterans; but despite the strides these programs have made, progress is still needed.

Interested in learning more about the plight of homeless veterans? You can find out more about the issue of homelessness among these brave men and women on the Florida Vets website.