Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) officials are “deeply concerned” the number of homeless veterans will spike after the federal government this month ends its hold on evictions for unpaid rent.
The VA “is deeply concerned about possible dramatic increases in homelessness when eviction moratoria are lifted,” Keith Harris, the head of clinical operations for the VA's Homeless Programs Office, told lawmakers on Wednesday.
“We’re as concerned as anyone else on this in this hearing today.”
The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) most recent one-night estimate of homeless veterans put the number at 37,252.
But that figure, from January 2020, “does not account for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has added to the nation's housing challenges, including for veterans,” Harris said.
HUD does not expect to do another homeless veteran survey until 2022.
To face the federal eviction moratorium — extended several times by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention but set to end on June 30 — Harris said the VA as well as HUD has moved “a significant portion of our funding” to go to help with rental and other assistance.
HUD senior adviser for housing and services Richard Cho, who also spoke at the hearing, said the two departments were working to increase housing vouchers for veterans by 70,000.
And in a separate panel during the hearing, veterans experts advocated for another extension of the moratorium, warning of “an unprecedented wave of veteran homelessness,” according to Kathryn Monet, head of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.
The extension should be “not forever but for a little while longer until we can get everyone back on their feet,” Monet said.