Veterans Affairs Secretary David Shulkin hosted a Washington event to brag about Trump’s promise to house all homeless vets, a promise they plan to keep by ending a special 460 million dollar program that drastically reduced homelessness among sick and vulnerable veterans.
That money is now going to VA hospitals—who can use it however they want as long as they have some evidence it helped a homeless veteran. The move was not well received.
Advocates for veterans, state officials, and officials from Housing and Urban Development, which co-sponsored the program, lashed out in anger on a Dec. 1st call that Shulkin’s Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans arranged.
“I don’t understand why you are pulling the rug out,” Elisha Harig-Blaine, a National League of Cities housing official who was on the call, said in an interview afterward. “You’re putting at risk the lives of men and women who’ve served this country.”
“The VA is taking its foot off the pedal,” said Leon Winston, an executive at Swords to Plowshares, a San Francisco organization that helps homeless vets.
But having HUD fight back against a Trump appointee might seem strange—if they weren’t going to be adversely affected by the decision. On Wednesday, HUD released its annual survey, which shows that there was a 1.5% increase in Veteran homelessness over 2016, the first spike since 2010.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), a veterans’ affairs subcommittee member, called the decision a “new low” for Trump, and that it was “especially callous and perplexing” considering the new data.
As Politico reports:
HUD data show there were nearly 40,000 homeless veterans in 2016, and even those with housing still need assistance. The program has reduced the number of displaced servicemembers, serving 138,000 since 2010 and cut the number without housing on a given day by almost half. More than half the veterans housed are chronically ill, mentally ill or have substance abuse problems.
Trump promised that he would help Veterans—instead, he’s kicking them to the curb, almost literally.