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After a few shameful years of rampant veteran homelessness, the federal government has poured resources into getting people who served off the streets. It’s made an impact: The homeless veteran population dropped 12 percent last year, according to the government’s numbers.
In the District, that’s meant a lot more help specifically for vets, who according to the latest counts compose 11.8 percent of D.C.’s approximately 5,000 homeless adults. They have a new comprehensive resource center out on Rhode Island Avenue NE. The Veterans Administration is still giving out housing vouchers, when they’ve dried up for the general population, as WTOP reported yesterday.
And now, the national nonprofit U.S. Vets has signed a lease at 150 Wayne Place SE, which will eventually have 150 beds, making it one of the largest such facilities in the region. The first phase is funded by the VA as well as grants from donors including Home Depot, SAIC, and Clark Construction—-the kind of players who might not pay out to solve the homeless population generally.
According to Dave Oberting, who serves on U.S. Vets’ local advisory board, that’s okay. “I think that you can make a strong moral case that solving the veteran’s homelessness problem could and even should take precedence over homelessness writ large,” he writes. “Homelessness in general is not a problem that can be solved with available resources…I think homelessness among veterans in D.C. is a problem that can be solved with current resources in a reasonable period of time.”
That may be true—-D.C. launched its “10 Year Plan to End Homelessness” in 2004. We’re not going to make it. If patriotism stimulates generosity for a particular slice of that population, no one will begrudge them the help.