STATEMENT FOR THE RECORD OF
THE HONORABLE ANTHONY J. PRINCIPI
SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS AND
CURRENT CHAIR, INTERAGENCY COUNCIL ON HOMELESSNESS
SUBCOMMITTEE ON HOUSING AND COMMUNITY OPPORTUNITY
COMMITTEE ON FINANCIAL SERVICES
U. S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
July 13, 2004
Mr. Chairman, Members of the Committee:
Thank you for allowing me to provide testimony for the record on H.R. 4057, the Samaritan Initiative of 2004. As you know, the Samaritan Initiative would establish an inter-agency grant program designed to help end chronic homelessness through the coordinated provision of housing, health care, mental health and substance abuse treatment, supportive, and other services to disabled persons who have been living long term on the streets and in shelters, including veterans. This bill incorporates a proposal submitted to the Congress in the President’s FY 2005 budget, which calls for $70 million in new funds - $50 million for HUD for housing, $10 million for HHS for primary and behavioral health care, and $10 million for VA for case management and outreach – to support collaborative community projects that combine clinical outreach, housing, and the supportive services necessary to sustain the tenancies. The VA resources would specifically be targeted toward working with local community collaborations to identify and assist chronically homeless veterans living on the streets and in shelters.
We are pleased to express our support for this important legislation. The coordinated program it would establish could offer a valuable new tool in support of the President’s goal of ending chronic homelessness by 2012. As the current chair of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, I very much appreciate how such interagency collaboration is needed to improve the effectiveness of services offered by each department.
If enacted, the Samaritan Initiative would allow VA to provide case management services to chronically homeless veterans who would be living in permanent housing provided under the legislation. The provision of stable, permanent housing, together with the furnishing of needed health care services (including mental health services and substance abuse treatment) and other support services, as proposed by the Samaritan Initiative, should greatly enhance the opportunities for recovery for homeless veterans and others afforded assistance under the Initiative.
The Samaritan Initiative would also require communities to develop comprehensive plans to address the needs of their chronically homeless individuals. This includes homeless veterans, who are too often overlooked. For example, case managers from the area VA medical center would coordinate with local agencies in an attempt to identify homeless individuals who might be eligible for VA medical care or benefits. After this direct outreach to identify eligible veterans, VA case workers would provide referrals related to social services, employment, and counseling to community agencies and VA hospitals and services as appropriate. In addition, the Samaritan Initiative would establish interagency implementing and monitoring teams that would review, select, and oversee program grantees.
Further, H.R. 4057 initiates a grant process that uses a single consolidated application form and a coordinated review of the applications received. It would also require the use of uniform performance standards and measures for performance outcomes. Such a collaborative effort at all levels (Federal, State, and local) coupled with the use of uniform standard and measures should make the delivery of services under the Initiative more effective, efficient, and amenable to evaluation and oversight.
Finally, I would like to add that VA’s obligations under the Samaritan Initiative would complement the successful programs VA already has in place to assist homeless veterans, particularly our continuing efforts to provide transitional housing with supportive services to homeless veterans. To date, VA has authorized 10,000 beds in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, and we are treating nearly 100,000 homeless veterans in our hospitals and clinics each year. Moreover, thousands of homeless veterans are getting both service-connected disability benefits and non-service connected pension benefits. Undoubtedly, veterans' benefits are key to helping homeless veterans once again lead independent and productive lives.
Thank you again for this opportunity to convey VA’s full support for H.R. 4057.