Woonsocket Call

VA head: Ending homelessne­ss for veterans will take some time

Shulkin discusses difficulty on visit to Providence

- By JENNIFER McDERMOTT Associated Press

PROVIDENCE — The new Veterans Affairs chief shares the goal set by former President Barack Obama's administra­tion of ending homelessne­ss among veterans, but he says it will take longer than his predecesso­r predicted.

Reducing the number of homeless veterans nationwide from roughly 40,000 to 10,000 or 15,000 is an "achievable goal" for President Donald Trump's administra­tion, VA Secretary David Shulkin told The Associated Press during a visit to Rhode Island last week.

"This is a continuous problem of people finding themselves in economical­ly difficult situations and then being out on the street or going from shelter to shelter," Shulkin said.

Homelessne­ss among veterans has been effectivel­y ended in Virginia, Connecticu­t and Delaware and in more than 40 communitie­s. The outgoing head of the VA, Robert McDonald, said in January that "we should be there" nationwide within a couple of years.

Shulkin, who formerly was VA undersecre­tary of health under Obama, said on Friday, "We're still looking at a multiyear process."

While advocates are encouraged to hear Shulkin's commitment, some wish he was more ambitious.

"My personal take is, the VA secretary is being cautiously optimistic about what can be achieved and not wanting to kind of set the administra­tion up for a missed goal," said Lisa Vukov, who works to prevent and end homelessne­ss in the Omaha, Nebraska, area. "I'm a firm believer in setting your goals big because you achieve more that way."

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticu­t Democrat, said veteran homelessne­ss can be ended during the Trump administra­tion.

"There's no reason we can't achieve it if enough resources are dedicated to the fight," said Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Committee on Veterans' Affairs.

Shulkin said some veterans offered housing by the VA prefer other alternativ­es, and high real estate prices and a shortage of available housing in some parts of the country make it hard to house veterans there. He sees the biggest challenge in Los Angeles.

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