At its very core, homelessness is caused by a fundamental mismatch between the availability of affordable housing in a community’s housing market and an individual’s ability to pay for housing. According to HUD, the average rental price has increased by four percent annually over the last decade and a staggering 66 percent between 2010 and 2020.
Yet the federal minimum wage has remained unadjusted since 2009. This mismatch, paired with weak social support networks and institutional and systemic racism, has been the major driver for the nationwide rise in housing instability that we have seen over the last several years.
While many people experiencing homelessness are employed, un- and under-employment are risk factors that can contribute to homelessness.
One important way to enhance housing stability for veterans is to offer employment and training assistance to increase the earnings of those who can work.
The Department of Labor’s Homeless Veterans’ Reintegration Program (HVRP) offers community providers the opportunity to provide tailored employment services for veterans in their community. Eligible veterans experiencing and at-risk of homelessness can utilize this support to obtain assistance with job skills, training, and assistance with employment searches.
HVRP grantees connect veterans facing housing instability to the supports and services necessary to address additional barriers such as transportation, justice-system involvement, and access to work-related tools and uniforms.
In fact, HVRP is the only Federal program solely focused on meeting the employment needs of people experiencing homelessness. Its presence in the toolkit of resources for addressing veteran homelessness has made the overall response more effective as the program’s grantees often partner with other grantees providing rapid rehousing, shelter, and permanent housing to offer more comprehensive services to veterans moving on from homelessness.
The benefits of connections to employment go far beyond improving their ability to pay the rent. There are other important benefits, including a sense of purpose and dignity, connections to other community members and a support network, and many more.
Last year, over 60 percent of HVRP participants were placed into employment opportunities. Even better, their average hourly wage was $16.23. There are still far too many veterans living in communities that lack this type of dedicated employment support to meet their needs.
Congress must act to expand the program’s reach and they need to hear from constituents in their communities that these services are essential to ending veteran homelessness.
If you know of an organization that might offer these services well, encourage them to visit grants.gov to learn about the current HVRP funding opportunities available to organizations across the country.
Most importantly, if you are an employer, consider partnering with a grantee in your area to give a veteran a chance at a fresh start and a bright future.
Veterans have done a lot for our country – we owe it to them and their families to ensure access to assistance that gives them a hand up.
Visit www.nchv.org to learn about the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.