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Bill supporting homeless veterans passes committee

Uashington, D.C. - U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar announced that bipartisan legislation to help fight homelessness among America's veterans passed out of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee with unanimous consent Wednesday.

The Veterans Programs Improvement Act of 2011 contains a provision authored by Klobuchar that would improve outreach to rural and underserved urban veterans by strengthening the existing HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program that provides chronically homeless veterans with housing vouchers and case management services, such as assistance accessing counseling and job training. A national study released earlier this year found that approximately 16 percent of all homeless adults are veterans, even though veterans make up only 10 percent of the adult population.

"The men and women of our Armed Forces raised their right hands and proudly wore the uniform of this country, and at the very least, they deserve a home," Klobuchar said. "When we ask our men and women to fight and sacrifice in defense of our nation, we make a promise that we're going to give them the support they need when they come home. This legislation would create partnerships to help extend essential services to homeless veterans who are currently living on the streets or in shelters.

According to a 2009 survey of homelessness by Wilder Research, the number of homeless veterans in Minnesota is at an all-time high. Nearly 700 individuals in Minnesota who previously served in the U.S. military are homeless on any given night. Minnesota has also seen its number of homeless veterans increase by seven percent from 2006 to 2009 and the number of homeless women veterans has more than doubled.

Last year the VA made a commitment to end veteran homelessness by 2015. Senator Klobuchar's provision would help the VA extend services to rural and underserved urban veterans by authorizing and encouraging the VA to partner with eligible state and local governments, tribal organizations, and community-based service providers to ensure homeless veterans have access to HUD-VASH housing vouchers and case management services. The provision does not create new spending and would require the VA to consult with community providers to ensure all needy veterans are served.

The legislation is endorsed by 27 veterans and social service organizations. They include:

• Veterans of Foreign Wars

• American Legion

• Disabled Veterans of America

• Paralyzed Veterans of America

• Vietnam Veterans of America

• Military Officers Association of America

• National Association of County Veterans Service Officers

• Veterans of Modern Warfare

• VetsFirst (a program of United Spinal Association)

• Student Veterans of America

• National Guard Association

• Minnesota Assistance Council for Veterans (MACV)

• Heading Home Minnesota

• National Coalition for Homeless Veterans

• National Alliance to End Homelessness

• Corporation for Supportive Housing

• National Law Center on Homelessness & Poverty

• Common Ground

• National Leased Housing Association

• Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities

• Easter Seals

• Mental Health America

• National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors

• National Association of State Head Injury Administrators

• National Council on Independent Living

• National Disability Rights Network