Congressman Cuellar Announces Language in Appropriations Bill to Help Homeless Veterans on U.S.-Mexico Border
Language marks first time a comprehensive strategy to reduce veteran homelessness on the border will be undertaken by Department of Housing and Urban Development
Today Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-TX-28) announced he included language in the Fiscal Year 2017 U.S. House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill to encourage the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to find ways to reduce veteran homelessness on the U.S.- Mexico border. The bill was passed out of the full U.S. House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday and now heads to the floor for a vote by the full House.
This is a problem that hits the 28th Congressional District hard, and it is one Congressman Cuellar is tackling from multiple fronts given existing coordination between HUD and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on a project known as HUD-VASH, which provides vouchers to homeless veterans to find housing. The language marks the first time that HUD will undertake a comprehensive approach to tackle the problem of veteran homelessness, a problem that can particularly hurt veterans trying to adjust to civilian society after the difficulties of war, up and down the U.S.-Mexico border. In addition to his efforts to tackle veteran homelessness, Congressman Cuellar is working on a more general strategy to reduce homelessness in Laredo with the help of the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness. This effort will cut across government agencies to ensure that every resource is being used properly to end homelessness.
In the Fiscal Year 2017 U.S. House Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill, which passed the House last week, Congressman Cuellar included language encouraging the VA to seek out more creative ways of working with local service agencies, especially in small and rural communities, to reduce veteran homelessness. He also included language to help newly housed veterans furnish their new places of residence.
Complementing his Military Construction and Veterans Affairs language, Congressman Cuellar’s THUD language recognizes the importance of the veteran homelessness issue, but it focuses in particular on the Point-in-Time Homeless Survey. This survey, taken annually by HUD, is used as a sort of yardstick for determining how much assistance is needed in the form of vouchers for veterans in a given area. Historically, however, the survey has undercounted veterans in areas along the border, where many cross over to Mexico. For instance, in early 2016, HUD counted 15 homeless veterans in Laredo in its survey this year; however, the Laredo Homeless Coalition, an advocacy group for the local homeless population, has estimated that Laredo has 107 veterans either homeless or at risk of homelessness. In the case of the Laredo VA Outpatient Clinic, staff are requesting an increase in HUD-VASH vouchers.
“I am disappointed that so many veterans in our area have to suffer the fate of homelessness after coming home from war,” Congressman Cuellar said. “Especially as Memorial Day approaches, I am concerned that we are not doing enough for those who have served our country so bravely and admirably. By including this language into the THUD appropriations bill, I hope to make sure that those who have protected our nation don’t return home empty-handed.”
To see the language Congressman Cuellar included, please click here.