For Immediate Release
April 14, 2022
Tiffany Smiley Unveils Her First Initiative to Address Veteran Homelessness in Washington
PASCO, WA – Veterans advocate and U.S. Senate candidate Tiffany Smiley (R-WA) announces her plan to address the rising epidemic of veterans homelessness.
Tiffany Smiley said: “The crisis of veteran homelessness we are seeing on Washington streets is a tragedy. Our returning heroes deserve our undying gratitude and far more from our leaders than they are receiving. This epidemic must stop now and, as Washington’s next U.S. Senator, I will shine a bright spotlight on this crisis and I will work to build coalitions to enact a solution that helps those who have sacrificed so much for each and every one of us.”
On Wednesday, Smiley toured the Tacoma Rescue Mission Family Shelter, the Tacoma Rescue Mission Veterans Sleeping Rooms, and the Orting Veterans Village - listening to program managers and residents while learning about the programs and how they care for homeless veteran’s short-term and long-term housing needs. Following her time in Orting, Tiffany spoke with Ari Hoffman of KVI Radio in Seattle, where she publicly launched her initiative live on-air.
Veterans’ issues have always been near and dear to Tiffany’s heart, and a priority facing Washington State. Last week, Smiley was joined by LTG (Ret.) Keith Kellogg for an op-ed in the Spokane Spokesman addressing the importance of combating Washington’s veterans homelessness crisis.
Washington is the proud home of several large military installations with veterans comprising 9% of our total population. Sadly, Washington also has more than 1,600 homeless veterans - the fourth highest rate of veteran homelessness in the country. We have to and can fix this!
Spending to assist homeless or at risk veterans topped $2 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2021, with the VA requesting $2.6 billion in FY 2022. Additionally, the American Rescue Plan allocated $14.5 billion towards helping veterans while giving the Veterans Affairs (VA), Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Health and Human Services (HHS) discretion to determine how those funds were spent.
The resources and services are available. What is lacking is the structure necessary for homeless veterans to access and benefit from these resources and services while having a safe, stable environment in which to live. The VA has a long list of services that it provides, but it is nearly impossible for homeless veterans to consistently attend appointments in multiple locations while also overcoming other barriers created by the federal bureaucracy.
Research strongly points to a Housing First approach as the key to successfully combating veteran homelessness, but housing alone isn’t a solution – this is where too many current programs fall short. A successful model gives homeless veterans supportive housing coupled with a VA case manager who can connect them with health care and other services, including additional treatment, mental health counseling and job training.
Smiley’s plan builds on the Housing First approach and is modeled on a successful and innovative program in Boise, Idaho that brings all of these services together in a single facility: Veteran Home Centers (VHCs).
The Veteran Home Centers would tap the federal funds available and join them with state and local assets for a true multilateral partnership. Addressing homelessness cannot happen in a vacuum - it requires the cooperation of communities and veterans associations. The federal funds available through programs like HUD-VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) are the key to attracting the state, local and private investments necessary to make these Centers a reality.
These Home Centers will focus on five core components: providing a respectful place to live that is run by veterans; an emphasis on family reunification; access to VA benefits - including medical and mental health care, drug and alcohol rehab, and job training; a transition to permanent housing; and engaging community action teams.
The Veteran Home Centers Plan:
Respectful Housing- Run by Veterans
Veteran Home Centers (VHCs) would enable veterans to live independently in an environment with other veterans
No one can understand a veteran like another veteran. VHCs would be operated by veterans.
Veterans often become homeless because they have been disconnected from their family.
Family reunification is the greatest source of stability and a real foundation for opportunity.
This plan will prioritize family reunification first so veterans can be reunited with the people who love them - giving them a better chance for success.
Direct Access to VA personnel
While living at the VHCs, residents would have access to VA personnel who can help them access the services, assistance and care they need.
This assistance will help residents overcome the bureaucratic and logistical hurdles which are so often an impediment to success for homeless veterans.
Transition to Permanent Housing
The ultimate goal for every participating veteran would be to transition from a VHC to permanent housing of their own, either rented or owned.
The federal government can work with state and local governments to increase access to affordable housing for these veterans through federal grants that incentivize the creation of property tax abatement, rent subsidies and other assistance.
Community Action Teams
VA community action teams, comprised of veterans, will assist in identifying homeless veterans across Washington and begin the process of placing them in shelters and, eventually, VHCs.
This process also helps ensure they receive the medical care and benefits to which they are entitled.