By Matt Saintsing
On any given night, it is estimated there are nearly 40,000 homeless veterans nationwide, while at the same time there are countless crumbling buildings.
A new bipartisan bill would bridge these two issues by housing homeless veterans in abandoned or “zombie” properties.
The Housing Our Heroes Act, introduced Thursday by Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (NY-18), would create a three-year $25 million pilot program allowing the Department of Veterans Affairs to provide funds to Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) to obtain and maintain decaying properties for the purpose of housing homeless veterans.
“We’ve got all these zombie properties dragging down home values and housing criminal activities, and we’ve got veterans living on the streets or struggling to buy a home – it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that we can kill two birds with one stone here,” said Rep. Maloney in a statement. “This legislation would help us fulfill our promise to our veterans and help redevelop blighted areas of our communities.”
Speaking to reporters in front of a run-down building in Newburgh, New York Maloney added “People should not fight for our country and come back and sleep on the street. It’s not enough to just give them a bed, we should be giving opportunity, and hope, and a place in the community”.
The program would help put previously homeless veterans on the path to homeownership by enabling them to start repaying the VSO after a year of occupancy.
The Housing Our Heroes Act builds upon the successes and lessons learned of helping the homeless veteran population. The most effective programs being community-based, nonprofit groups that provide opportunities and resources like housing.
Homelessness disproportionately impacts African American and Hispanic veterans who account for 45% of all homeless veterans, while only accounting for 10% and 3% of the total veteran population, respectively.