One valid criticism of President Obama is that he doesn’t talk much about the good things he and his administration have done. When problems at the Veterans Administration were brought to light, Republicans hammered the president mercilessly, suggesting that he didn’t care about the military, or our veterans. But the Obama administration has quietly been helping veterans in a major way, ever since they took power in 2009.
A report on Mic.com says that over the last four years, the Obama administration has cut the number of homeless veterans by 50 percent. You know, those homeless vets that right-wing personalities like Bill O’Reilly have said don’t exist. President Obama is trying to do O’Reilly a favor, and eliminate veteran homelessness, so O’Reilly can finally be right about something.
How has the president been able to achieve this big reduction in homeless veterans? Through a program called Opening Doors, which was unveiled in June 2010. That program is designed to address homelessness in general, and it appears to be having a major impact on veterans in particular.
Zeeshan Aleen, writing at Mic.com, says:
The most striking long-term plunge [in homelessness], though, has occurred among one specific segment of the homeless population: veterans. Homelessness among veterans declined by 35%, and in a shorter span of time — between 2009 and 2015. The number of unsheltered homeless veterans across the nation has plummeted by 50% in the past four years.
The man given much of the credit for that achievement is President Obama’s Housing and Urban Development Secretary, Julian Castro. In an interview with Aleen at Mic, Castro says that the fight against homelessness is an example of how Washington should work. On this issue there has actually been bipartisan cooperation, and remarkable cooperation between the federal government and the states. Thanks to that, progress on the issue of homelessness has been huge. In fact, this month the state of Virginia announced that it had eliminated veteran homelessness.
Castro says that one of the things that has made the Opening Doors program so successful is the practice called “housing-first.” What that does is put homeless people into permanent housing right away. No shelters, no temporary housing. Veterans are put into housing where they also can get support for problems that many of them are dealing with. Some of those problems, like mental health issues, are the reasons the veterans became homeless to begin with.
“Ah,” the right might say, “you’re giving people something for nothing. They’ll just be lazy and mooch off the government!”
Castro says that the reverse is true. He says that by providing permanent housing, it frees up the formerly homeless to do things other than worry about where they are going to sleep — look for jobs, get help for substance abuse problems, seek out mental health treatment, etc.
Castro thinks that the short-term success of the program means that over the long run, we have the potential to eliminate homelessness entirely. Not just among veterans, but for everybody. He says:
There’s a tremendous amount of work still left to be done, but we have seen since 2010 that 36% decline in veteran homelessness, we’ve seen an 11% decline overall.
That gives me a lot of hope that eventually we can effectively end homelessness overall in the United States, if we’re willing to adopt smart policy and make the right investment of resources.
“Smart policy and right investment of resources.” Both foreign words to Republicans.
You can read the complete interview with Secretary Castro at Mic.com
Featured image via BuiltUSA