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Tester Pushes Bill To Combat Native American Veterans Homelessness

As part of his ongoing effort to better serve Native American veterans, U.S. Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is putting forward an amendment to the Fiscal Year 2020 Appropriations “minibus” legislation to combat veteran homelessness.

While Native American veterans serve in the military at a higher rate than any other ethnic demographic in the United States, they are also at greater risk of homelessness than their veteran peers. Tester’s amendment would boost federal funding by $3 million for the Tribal Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program, providing critical rental and housing assistance to homeless and at-risk homeless veterans in Indian Country. If passed, the Senator’s measure would maintain last year’s funding levels for the Tribal HUD-VASH program.

'Native American veterans made great sacrifices to keep this country safe, and they deserve to have a warm place to sleep when they return from service,” said Tester, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee. “Unfortunately, far too often these folks return home from service without access to safe and affordable housing. This amendment would ensure that Native veterans have better access to stable housing, so that even in difficult times they don’t have to worry about having a place to call home.”

HUD-VASH has supported homeless veterans since 2008 by combining HUD federal public housing program rental assistance with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Tribes and tribally-designated housing entities, which do not participate in federal public housing programs, were unable to participate in the program until Congressional authorization in 2014. As of 2018, the Tribal HUD-VASH pilot program has served 25 Tribes and helped house more than 100 Native American veterans.

As Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee, Tester has been a longtime supporter of increasing access to safe, affordable housing for Native American veterans. Earlier this Congress, he introduced the Tribal HUD-VASH Act, which would provide rental assistance for homeless or atrisk Indian veterans and will improve case management services, provide housing for eligible homeless Indian veterans by mandating federal agencies to work cooperatively, and ensure program accountability through Congressional reporting. Senator Tester’s Tribal HUD-VASH Act passed the Senate earlier this year and awaits action in the House.

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