Veterans’ homelessness a top concern for Montgomery housing officials -- Gazette.Net



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Of the more than 115,000 residents in the Washington, D.C., metro region who are waiting for federal housing vouchers, about 15,000 are in Montgomery County.

This includes a critical population of homeless veterans, according to experts gathered Monday in North Bethesda for the annual Affordable Housing Conference of Montgomery County.

“Most particularly of concern to me is the fact that people who are serving in our armed forces, who are coming back from Iraq and Afghanistan and coming back to a community that does not provide adequate housing for veterans in the manner that we should have it,” said County Executive Isiah Leggett (D). “This is a real problem and the problem, especially for veterans, will only get worse in the short term, but we are committed to make certain that we do the right thing for those people who have helped this country to be what it is today.”

Hundreds attended the 21st annual conference at the Montgomery County Conference Center to address the county’s changing face and affordable housing picture, which conference co-chairwoman Barbara Goldberg-Goldman characterized as having reached crisis proportions.

Among the eight panels addressing affordable housing in the context of issues including transit, employment and development, one tackled the concerns of veterans who struggle to find and retain housing.

For Montgomery, the challenge going forward lies at the intersection of declining federal and state aid and available county resources and whether the county can absorb more of the burden of providing housing for the roughly 700 veterans in need locally, Leggett said.

As Montgomery County seeks additional vouchers for veterans, it also hopes to find creative ways to move veterans up that list of 15,000 residents in need of housing assistance.

“We can’t allow them to be at the bottom of that line,” Leggett said.

From 2008 to 2011, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development issued 50 Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers to homeless veterans in Montgomery County, according to Justin Brock, special assistant for Veterans Initiatives with HUD. Regionally, 782 vouchers were distributed. In 2011, Montgomery had 41 homeless veterans, according to HUD’s point-in-time count, a one-day snapshot of homelessness. Nationally, the number of homeless veterans declined from 76,000 in 2010 to 67,500 in 2011, according to the count.

kalexander@gazette.net