March 9, 2000
Fred Karnas, Jr., Ph.D.
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs Programs
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
Subcommittee on Benefits
Committee on Veterans' Affairs
U.S. House of Representatives
Mr. Chairman, members of the
Subcommittee, I appreciate the opportunity to appear before the
Subcommittee today. It is my honor to represent the Department
of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Secretary Andrew Cuomo
and Assistant Secretary Cardell Cooper before you today.
The fact that current estimates suggest that on any given night
there many be as many as 275,000 homeless veterans in the U.S.
is not only tragic -- in this time of significant economic prosperity
it is unacceptable. For this reason, addressing homelessness
has been a high priority for the Department since the first day
of President Clinton's administration, and it is why over that
past three years, HUD has provided over $1.1 billion to fund
nearly 2,500 programs targeting homeless veterans as one of the
primary groups they are serving
HUD's efforts to address the needs of homeless veterans must
be understood in the context of the programmatic and policy changes
which took place as a result of implementing Priority Home!:
The Federal Plan to Break the Cycle of Homelessness. The
Federal plan was developed by direction of President Clinton
in 1993, and involved input from a variety of federal agencies
and thousands of organizations and individuals working to address
At HUD, the plan called for increased resources and the implementation
of a new approach to addressing homelessness called the Continuum
of Care. It must be clear that HUD's mandate is to seek to address
the housing and service needs of all homeless persons families
with children, persons living with HIV/AIDS, those suffering
from alcohol or drug dependence, persons experiencing mental
illness, and veterans. It is HUD's special challenge to ensure,
to the degree possible, that communities have the tools necessary
to craft programs and policies to meet the complex needs of all
of these groups.
This morning, I would like to highlight how the Department has
successfully expanded its efforts to support community approaches
to addressing homelessness broadly, and then more specifically
focus on our efforts to target the needs of homeless veterans.
Significantly increased resources have been key to HUD's ability
to support the efforts of communities to address homelessness
in recent years. Since 1992, thanks to the President's initiative
and Congressional support, funding for HUD's homelessness assistance
programs has nearly tripled from $450 million to over $1 billion
in 1999. And, because the need continues to exceed the resources,
President Clinton is seeking to make even more funding available
in his FY2001 budget proposal, which includes $1.2 billion for
HUD's competitive and formula homeless assistance programs, as
well a funding for 18,000 Section 8 vouchers to assist homeless
persons move from transitional to permanent housing.
The Continuum of Care Policy
In 1993, under the leadership of then Assistant Secretary Andrew
Cuomo, HUD recognized homelessness was more than simply a housing
problem. The Department restructured its homeless assistance
programs focusing attention on long-term solutions which included
housing, but also included job training, drug treatment, mental
health services, and domestic violence counseling, among other
things. The new homeless assistance policy was called the Continuum
Besides changing the thinking about how HUD's homeless assistance
programs should work, the Continuum of Care approach also restructured
the relationship among Federal, state and local governments,
nonprofits, and other community stakeholders. It did so by engaging
citizens in a common planning process to craft a comprehensive
system of housing and services to meet the complex needs of homeless
persons. In so doing, HUD recognized that communities were best
positioned to know the needs of homeless persons at the local
level, and the existing resource infrastructure. In order to
obtain funding, communities were asked to submit a comprehensive
plan to HUD, which included local priorities for funding.
In addition to calling for a new approach and additional funding,
HUD sought to ensure that taxpayer funds directed to address
homelessness were used effectively and efficiently by imposing
performance as a criteria for continued funding. A successful
Continuum of Care includes (1) outreach; (2) emergency shelter;
(3) transitional housing; (4) permanent housing or permanent
housing with supportive services. While not all homeless people
need access to each component, all four must be present and coordinated
within a Continuum. A winning application is one that focuses
on a coordinated community-based strategy that emphasizes independence
and self - sufficiency to the maximum extent possible.
As a result of the implementation of the Continuum of Care approach
to addressing homelessness, several significant changes have
occurred in the nation's response to homelessness. First, according
to a 1995 report by the Barnard-Columbia Center on Urban Policy,
the number of persons served has increased at least 4 times and
perhaps as many as 14 times depending on the number of persons
receiving multiple services. This significant increase reflects
both the additional resources and the efficiencies gained from
a comprehensive and coordinated process. Second, leveraging of
non-HUD funds by HUD funds increased from $38 million in 1992
to $1.8 billion in 1999 providing significantly more resources
to address homelessness at the local level.
By 1999, over 83% of the U.S. population (646 cities and 1,860
counties) lived in areas covered by Continuums of Care, and the
Barnard-Columbia University Center on Urban Policy study revealed
that communities across the nation felt that the Continuum process
has significantly improved their ability to address the needs
of homeless people.
Reflecting the significance of the impact of HUD's policy changes,
the Department received a Hammer Award from National Performance
Review, and, in 1999, was named one of 10 winners (out of more
than 1,400 nominees) for the prestigious Harvard-Ford Foundation
Innovations in Government Award.
Targeting the Needs of Homeless Veterans
Despite the success of the Continuum of Care approach overall,
the Department heard from a number of groups serving homeless
veterans that additional changes were needed to better meet the
needs of homeless veterans. Thus, we undertook the efforts outlined
In response to these concerns, on March 19, 1996, HUD Secretary
Andrew Cuomo created the HUD Veteran Resource Center (HUDVET).
Established in consultation with national veteran service organizations,
and other Federal agencies, specifically the Department of Labor's
Veterans Employment and Training Service, the Department of Veterans
Affairs, and The President's Committee on Employment of People
with Disabilities, HUDVET's first and major goal was educational.
HUD recognized the need to provide veterans, their families and
their service organizations and advocates information on HUD's
community based programs and services.
The Department believed that equipped with this knowledge, veterans
and their service organizations could become more involved in
local planning and decision-making around homelessness assistance.
HUD also envisioned that by working together the various Federal
agencies and working groups could increase veteran utilization
of services and local resources, as well as related Federal programs.
In addition to a special focus on homelessness among military
veterans, HUDVET has also become a recognized source of information
on other HUD and related Federal programs available to serve
veterans at the community and state levels. With the educational
mission in mind, HUD worked together with VSO staff and other
veteran advocates to develop the HUDVET brochure and the HUDVET
Directory of Resources. The brochure provides point of contact
numbers for all HUD's Federal homeless program colleagues, as
well as providing a brief review of selected HUD programs.
In addition to providing an excellent overview of HUD programs
and services, our 400 page HUDVET Directory contains a first
of it's kind listing of all Federal, state and local human development
planning and service programs available to veterans and their
Working with VSO's, HUD has mailed copies of the Directory to
every single VSO National Service Officer in the United States.
In fact, to date, HUD has distributed over 10,000 copies of the
HUDVET Brochure and several thousand copies of the HUDVET Directory.
Working with VSO's, and in particular the Veterans Organization
Homeless Council (VOHC) chaired by Bob Piero of the Vietnam Veterans
of America and the Homeless Veteran Foundation (HVF) chaired
by Harold Russell, HUD developed the HUDVET Web Site which contains
information and links to federal, state and local veteran services,
including the House Veterans' Committee website.
As part of HUDVET's efforts, the Department has also worked closely
the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Department of Labor's
VETS program, sharing information, educating community groups
regarding the range of services available to veterans and their
The success of HUDVET is due, in no small way, to the appointment
of Bill Pittman to head the office. Mr. Pittman is a highly decorated
combat disabled Vietnam veteran and career Federal employee.
Bill served in the U.S. Navy from 1965-1971. He saw duty with
the First Marine Division in Vietnam. His decorations include
the Navy and Marine Corps Medal for Heroism, two Purple Hearts,
the Navy Combat Action Ribbon, the US Army National Guard Distinguished
Service Medal and the Republic of China Medal of Honor.
Changes in the Continuum of Care Process to Better Serve Homeless
In addition to the establishment of HUDVET, the Department made
a number of policy and operational changes to the Continuum of
Care process to further encourage and make possible full participation
by organizations serving homeless veterans. The need to include
groups representing veterans in local Continuum of Care planning
was first highlighted in the 1996 Continuum of Care Notice of
Funding Availability (NOFA) and continues to be an important
factor in our review of project applications. The NOFA specifically
The community process used
in developing a Continuum of Care system must include interested
veterans service organizations with specific experience in serving
homeless veterans, in order to ensure that the Continuum of Care
system addresses the needs of homeless veterans.
In addition, the NOFA indicates that high scores result from
having maximum participation by various nonprofit providers,
among which veterans service organizations are included as an
example. Thus, in scoring applications, communities which have
not reached out and included groups representing veterans are
scored lower than those who have brought them into the process.
This point is underscored by a section of the "Questions
and Answers" document which accompanies the Continuum of
Care application and which includes basic information on including
veterans and the organizations representing them in the Continuum
of Care process.
The Department has also added language to the contracts of every
provider that proposes to serve homeless veterans in their HUD
funded housing and service programs which requires them to describe
how outreach will be conducted to the veterans population. The
grantee must also describe the methods that will be used to ensure
veterans' participation including information on specific site
locations and referral networks. And, since Assistant Secretary
Cooper has made monitoring of HUD's projects a high priority,
Field Office staff are in a better position to ensure that the
commitments of our grantees to address the needs of homeless
veterans are met.
In the last funding cycle, we added language to our conditional
grant letters directing those programs which have stated that
they will target homeless veterans either primarily or as part
of their target population to inform their local VA entities
that their services are available to veterans.
In addition, all Continuum of Care grantees are required to submit
an Annual Progress Report (APR) containing program narrative,
budget, client and accomplishments data on the past year's activities.
In 1996, the Department included a new section in the APR focusing
on service to homeless veterans. APRs are reviewed and program
sites are monitored regularly by HUD's Field Offices.
With these changes in place, the Department has reached out to
veterans' service organizations, the National Coalition for Homeless
Veterans, and other groups concerned about the plight of homeless
veterans to ensure that they are aware of HUD's programs, how
they work, and our expectations of providers. Secretary Cuomo,
Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development Cardell
Cooper, Acting Chief of Staff Jacquie Lawing, Mr. Pittman, myself,
and other senior HUD staff have led sessions at conferences,
attended special meetings, and held briefings with these veterans
groups in recent years to highlight HUD's homelessness assistance
In addition to the program and policy changes, the Department
makes available an array of technical assistance resources. Although
the HUD Reform Act prohibits HUD staff or consultants from assisting
with the development of a specific grant application, the Department
can provide general information on programs and clarification
of program requirements. National technical assistance providers
can work with groups and communities to improve the Continuum
of Care process, or to enhance the inclusion of homeless persons
in the process. Local technical assistance providers can help
with an array of programmatic questions, as can HUD's College
of Experts, which includes individual consultants with knowledge
of programs for homeless veterans.
We believe all of these efforts have resulted in positive changes.
In 1997, the Department funded 657 projects targeting homeless
veterans. Overall, for 1997 the success rate of funding for all
awarded projects serving veterans was 42 % compared to 41% for
all projects. In 1998, HUD funded 805 projects serving homeless
veterans. The success rate for 1998 projects proposing to serve
veterans was 54% compared to 56% for all applicants. By 1999,
over 1,000 projects serving homeless veterans were funded, with
a success rate of 62%, the same as for all applicants.
As a result of HUD's efforts to better focus on the needs of
homeless veterans, over $1.1 billion dollars has been made available
for projects serving homeless veterans in just the past three
years. These funds have gone to fund excellent projects operated
by organizations such as U.S. Vets, Maryland Homeless Vets, and
the New England Shelter for Homeless Veterans.
But, application data only tells part of the story. The real
issue is what happens when the projects are implemented. As mentioned
previously, the Department requires the submission of Annual
Progress Reports (APRs) which provide a snapshot of what is happening
with funded projects. A recent sample of APRs shows that 28%
of all adult males served in HUD's homeless assistance programs
are veterans. This figure is proportionate to the rate of homeless
males who are veterans (about 33%). Based on this sample, over
150,000 male veterans are served during the course of the year.
There is Still Work to be Done
We believe we have come a long way in addressing the needs of
homeless veterans. We would not suggest, however, that we have
done all that needs to be done. It seems that at least two significant
Often grant applications received from groups proposing to serve
veterans do not reflect the capacity needed to administer Federal
funds. HUD is committed to improving our technical assistance
resources to assist organizations in building capacity. I previously
mentioned our efforts to assist existing grantees, and last summer
we published new technical assistance materials on the Continuum
of Care process and on developing Safe Haven programs for persons
experiencing mental illness. In addition, HUDVET provides an
array of technical assistance resources that are readily available
through the Internet and via our 1-800 number.
In the coming year, we are considering ways we might improve
the Department's outreach to veterans' groups regarding the availability
of these resources, and ways that we might develop veterans specific
Access to the Continuum of Care Process
The other significant barrier to groups seeking funding to assist
homeless veterans is at the local level. We have heard from a
number of groups who claim that the interests of homeless veterans
are not a priority in local planning processes. As mentioned
previously, the Department has crafted the application in such
a way that ignoring the needs of homeless veterans will affect
the community's score in the Continuum of Care competition. However,
having said that, there is one significant reality which cannot
be ignored, that is the renewal of existing projects. In some
communities, the reason that new groups proposing to serve homeless
veterans are not prioritized highly is that the renewal demand
for existing projects is so high that to include a new program
as a priority would require the closing of an existing project.
HUD's response has been to seek additional resources to meet
the continued need. As mentioned earlier, President Clinton is
seeking a significant increase in HUD's homelessness assistance
budget in FY2001. Passage of this appropriation will help address
the renewal problem and make additional funding available for
new programs in most communities.
The Department will also continue to make communities aware of
the needs of homeless veterans and encourage veterans service
organizations to regularly participate in local planning efforts
to educate the community on the special needs of homeless veterans.
Thank you for the opportunity to talk about HUD's efforts to
address homelessness. Homelessness among our nation's veterans
continues to be an American tragedy. The Department of Housing
and Urban Development is proud of the strides we have made in
addressing this crisis, and the thousands of homeless persons
who, through our programs, have returned to self-sufficiency.
However, we, like many Americans, continue to be appalled that
even one of our nation's veterans, who have sacrificed so much
to benefit us all, should find himself or herself homeless on
the streets of our cities and towns. Therefore, we at HUD commit
ourselves to continuing our work with this committee, veterans
service organizations, and other concerned groups to ensure that
the needs of homeless veterans are met.
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