WASHINGTON – Senators John Hoeven (R-ND) and Tom Udall (D-NM), chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, and Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Jon Tester (D-MT), chairman and ranking member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, welcomed the passage of their bipartisan legislation to address Native American veteran homelessness.
The Tribal HUD-VASH Act, introduced by Senator Tester, will renew a joint tribal housing initiative between the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program, which provides rental and housing assistance to homeless and at-risk homeless veterans in Indian Country.
“Today, the committee took an important step forward to help improve the quality of life for Native Americans who courageously served our country,” Hoeven said. “American Indians have served in our armed forces in higher numbers than any other ethnic group. This bill extends vital resources to our Native American veterans and increases their access to safe, quality housing. I am glad to work with my colleagues in the Senate to quickly pass this bipartisan bill.”
“Native Americans serve our nation in the military in greater numbers per capita than any other ethnic group and it is critical that this country live up to the promise it made to Native veterans,” Tester said. “Without rooves over our heads, it is hard to live productive and healthy lives. This bipartisan bill is important because it provides tribes with resources to ensure that every Native American veteran has access to affordable housing.”
“Homelessness among Native American veterans is simply unacceptable,” Udall said. “We owe a solemn debt to these men and women who have given so much in service to our country. I’m proud to join in this bipartisan effort to ensure Native veterans in Indian Country have access to safe and affordable housing, and I’ll keep fighting to see this crucial legislation become law.”
“We must always take care of our service members who sacrificed so much for us,” Isakson said. “I am pleased this bipartisan effort to continue access to housing and support for Native American veterans is moving forward.”
HUD-VASH has supported homeless veterans since 2008. Prior to Congressional authorization of a tribal HUD-VASH pilot in 2015, Native American tribes and tribal housing authorities had been unable to access HUD-VASH funds.
The Tribal HUD-VASH Act will formally authorize the program for current recipients and ensure that at least five percent of all HUD-VASH funding is set aside for additional Native American tribes and tribal housing authorities to address veteran homelessness. The bill will also ensure that HUD and the VA modify the initiative through tribal consultation to better guide available resources to homeless Native American veterans.
The legislation also directs the Indian Health Service to provide any assistance requested by HUD or the VA to implement the initiative and directs HUD, the VA, and the Indian Health Service to conduct an initial review of the initiative after one year and subsequent reporting every five years thereafter.
The bill, as amended, unanimously passed the committee. The amendment incorporates technical corrections developed in consultation with HUD, including authorizing the HUD Secretary to renew grants awarded to current program recipients and requiring additional reporting by HUD to identify the impact of the program’s implementation on home building under the Indian Housing Block Grant.
The Senate Indian Affairs Committee held a legislative hearing on the Tribal HUD-VASH Act on June 13, 2017. The National Congress of American Indians, National American Indian Housing Council, and the Association of Village Council Presidents Regional Housing Authority testified in support of the legislation.