By Molly O'Toole
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The number of homeless veterans on any given night has dropped by over 55,000, the Department of Veterans Affairs said on Friday, due in part to programs like the $46.2 million announced Thursday to provide permanent housing for 6,790 homeless veterans.
Despite a still-stagnant economy and increased troop drawdowns leading to potentially higher numbers of homeless veterans, VA Deputy Press Secretary Drew Brookie said the number of veterans that are homeless each night has dropped from an estimated 131,000 in 2009 to 75,700 as of June this year.
But continued pressure on this targeted group makes Thursday's funding fundamental to the Obama Administration's goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015, according to Anne Oliva, director of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's homeless office.
"It's a critical time," Oliva told Reuters Friday. "We have veterans that are returning from Iraq and Afghanistan that are potentially becoming homeless in higher numbers than they have in the past. This new influx of people ... we want to try and get in front of it."
The $46.2 million will go to public housing agencies in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
"We're reducing the time it takes to get veterans into homes," Brookie told Reuters Friday.
The funding is part of the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program. HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki announced the grants Thursday morning.
They are the first of two rounds of funding that will allocate the $50 million appropriated to fight veteran homelessness in Fiscal Year 2011.
Participating veterans in the HUD-VASH program generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rental of privately owned housing, according to the HUD.
The program is coordinated by HUD, the VA and local housing authorities.
"Now we know what works," Oliva said. "This is the time; we have the resources ... having one veteran homeless is too many."
(Editing by Jerry Norton)