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Hon. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin

Hon. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, a Representative in Congress from the State of South Dakota

Chairman Michaud and Ranking Member Miller, thank you for allowing me to be here to discuss the Services to Prevent Homelessness Act, a bill which I introduced on May 17, 2007, to provide supportive services for very low-income veterans.

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 1.5 million of our nation's veterans live in poverty, including 702,000 veterans with disabilities and 404,000 veterans in households with children.  634,000 of the 1.5 million poor veterans live in extreme poverty.  These poor veterans face residential insecurity due to their low-income levels or their past episodes of homelessness.  They also face health and vocational challenges and access barriers to supportive services, which limit their ability to sustain housing and maintain independence from more-costly public institutional care and support.  These poor veterans may benefit from flexible and individualized support services provided in home-based settings.

The Services to Prevent Veterans Homelessness Act would authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to provide financial assistance to nonprofit organizations and consumer cooperatives to provide and coordinate the provision of supportive services that addresses the needs of very low-income veterans occupying permanent housing.  The financial assistance shall consist of per diem payments for each household provided supportive services. 

Supportive services that may be offered include physical and mental health, case management, daily living, personal financial planning, transportation, vocational counseling, employment and training, education, assistance in obtaining veterans benefits and public benefits, child care, and housing counseling. 

Veteran subpopulations expected to benefit from the program include veterans transitioning from homelessness to permanent housing, poor disabled and older veterans requesting supportive services in home-based settings, and poor veterans in rural areas with distance barriers to centrally-located services.

While federal programs exist to help create veterans homeownership, there is no national housing assistance program targeted to low-income veterans.  Permanent housing opportunities for veterans ready for independent living are limited.  In addition, the VA currently is not permitted to provide grants to create affordable permanent housing, and the resources that are available for providers are inadequate and highly sought after by competing housing projects. 

Thank you again for allowing me to be here.  I look forward to continuing to work with the Chairman and Ranking Member to support efforts to meet the housing assistance needs of our nation's low-income veterans through the establishment of a permanent housing assistance program for low income veterans. 

I would be happy to answer any questions you may have.