Lost Among Us: New Veterans Programs Aim To Reach Homeless And Mentally Ill

Jennifer Berry Hawes | The Post and Courier | November 2, 2013

It is a mighty goal — to end veteran homelessness by 2016. Sounds a bit lofty even. But the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has been putting its money where its PR is.

The VA, including its growing medical center in downtown Charleston, has been hiring throngs of new staff and funding comprehensive new programs to combat homelessness and its life-consuming triumvirate with mental illness and substance abuse.

For instance, the VA’s fiscal 2014 budget includes $1.4 billion (up $41 million from 2013) to end veteran homelessness, and $7 billion (up $469 million from 2013) to expand mental health care.

That makes the VA a rarity among today’s public mental health systems.

The influx of resources comes as state and local mental health agencies have weathered shrinking budgets and staffs compared to a decade ago, despite soaring needs.