Thousands of American Veterans Remain Homeless

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The number of homeless American vets has dropped by 15,000 since 2009, according to an upcoming government report.

The decline fulfills in part an aggressive vow by the Obama administration to end veteran homelessness by 2015.

Still, roughly 60,000 vets remain without homes -- 14 percent of the country's homeless population.

Officials say it would take the following conditions to stamp out the problem:

  • The record annual progress would have to more than double.
     
  • Billions more in federal money would be needed.
     
  • There would have to be more improvements and long-term commitment to programs aimed at the root issues that lead to homelessness, like  mental illness, drug and alcohol addiction, unemployment, and poverty.

Bob McElroy, president and CEO of the Alpha Project, has helped San Diego's homeless for decades. He suggested the administration's vow to end veteran homelessness is wishful thinking.

"It's baloney to say it will end in 2015," McElroy told The Associated Press. "This needs to be a priority for decades to come."

While Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki acknowledged the goal is ambitious, he said it's better to set the bar too high than too low.

"I learned long ago that there are never any absolutes in life, and a goal of zero homeless veterans sure sounds like an absolute," Shinseki conceded  in a November 2009 speech.

"But unless we set ambitious targets for ourselves, we would not be giving this our very best efforts," he said.

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