December 18, 2020
Dear Mr. McDonough,
On behalf of the National Coalition for Housing Justice, congratulations on being named Secretary Designee for Veterans Affairs. We request the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this topic in more detail.
By way of introduction, the National Coalition for Housing Justice (NCHJ) is a group of national organizations that have aligned behind seeking housing justice in order to end homelessness. We have come together to coordinate advocacy efforts, develop policy recommendations, and leverage our collective tools to drive change. Housing justice for us means guaranteeing opportunities for everyone in our country to have affordable, safe, accessible, stable housing. We undertake this effort through a racial justice approach, which acknowledges the disproportionality in who experiences homelessness and the structural racism that has created these outcomes. Beyond racial and housing justice, our key priorities include ending youth homelessness, ending veteran homelessness, stopping the criminalization of homelessness, and the production of low-income housing in order to address supply-side causes of homelessness and housing insecurity.
NCHJ members include (in alphabetical order):
|A Way Home America|
Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Funders Together to End Homelessness
National Alliance to End Homelessness
|National Coalition for Homeless Veterans|
National Health Care for the Homeless Council
National Homelessness Law Center
National Innovation Service
National Low Income Housing Coalition
True Colors United
Your experience during the Obama-Biden Administration has no doubt given you a grounding in veteran homelessness, and we write to offer our time, expertise, and partnership on this issue. As our country moves through the COVID-19 pandemic, ending veteran homelessness is more important than ever, and we urge you to consider this issue among your top five priorities in a Biden-Harris Administration.
Homelessness is a complex, intersectional challenge faced by veterans and civilians alike. We know that Black, Latino/a/x, and Native veterans are disproportionately affected by this pandemic, homelessness, and racial injustice in the world and within the constructs of the VA system. If confirmed, your work as Secretary must be grounded in racial equity and designed to reduce the inequities reflected in the experiences of certain groups of veterans at risk of, experiencing, and exiting homelessness.
Utilizing evidence-based practices are crucial and we ask that you commit to doing what research has proven to work. Below are key priorities within this space that are critical to successfully meeting the needs of this group of veterans.
- Ensure veterans in congregate transitional housing programs or who are unsheltered are prioritized within VA’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution framework;
- Commit to housing first as the predominant means of serving veterans experiencing homelessness;
- Require VHA to use CARES funds on HUD-VASH case management in order to release the 13,500 unused vouchers that could fund permanent supportive housing for veterans and commit to longer term program reform;
- Continue to transform the Grant and Per Diem program by supporting Capital Grants, messaging the need to move away from congregate settings, and supporting efforts to waive OMB recapture & recovery regulations that prevent providers from utilizing their facilities to meet community needs as veteran homelessness decreases
- Work to keep veterans experiencing homelessness out of the criminal justice system by promoting efforts to decriminalize homelessness; and
- Hold VAMC Directors accountable to ending veteran homelessness.
We respectfully request a meeting in your first few weeks to brief you on the important issues affecting Veterans. Our organizations stand ready to partner with you on moving these priorities forward and “fight like hell for veterans and their families,” and finish the job of ending veteran homelessness in the United States.
National Coalition for Housing Justice