Veteran homelessness in 2010 was a nationwide problem, and a national disgrace. Since then, it has been cut nearly in half, and effectively ended in many communities.

That’s no mistake — a concerted effort between federal agencies and their state and local partners lasered in on the problem. Through a joint HUD-VA program, housing has been found or maintained for more than 138,000 veterans in the last seven years.

Despite this clear success, the Trump administration moved recently to end the program, known as HUD-VA Supportive Housing. After an outcry, the VA yesterday appeared to step back from its plan, saying instead that it would take time to review its funding.

In military terms, advocates won the battle, but the war is far from over. There remains an unacceptable number of homeless veterans that need help, and those recently helped by the program continue to need support. It is a difficult population, one dealing with poor health, mental illness and other vulnerabilities — if the program is ended and the supports not adequately filled in, the successes of the last few years can go away as fast as they came.

The HUD-VA Supportive Housing targets homelessness through a combination of housing vouchers through HUD and case management, which the VA provides. Case managers can work with landlords, and help veterans pay bills, access agency services and find work.

Veteran by veteran, this program has lowered the rate of homelessness among former service members. The 2016 homelessness count found slightly fewer than 40,000 homeless vets across the country, the sixth straight year showing a decline, and a 46 percent drop from 2010. Some communities have even declared an end to veteran homelessness in their area. Maine, too, has made great strides.


But the problem is far from over. The nationwide count this year found a slight uptick, about 1.5 percent, which can be almost entirely attributed to an increase in the Los Angeles area, where high housing prices have meant that housing vouchers are not as attractive to landlords.

That might mean that an adjustment in strategy is necessary in attacking homelessness in high-cost areas. But it doesn’t take away from the fact that 40,000 veterans still need homes, and that many more continue to need ongoing support from the HUD-VA program. It certainly doesn’t warrant a complete dismantling of a program that has worked so well.

The Dec. 1 announcement to end the program was met with gasps from advocates, state officials, even HUD representatives. All 14 members of the Senate Appropriations Military Construction-VA Subcommittee — Democrats and Republicans alike — sent a letter to VA Secretary David Shulkin asking him to reconsider.

On Tuesday, Shulkin seemed to acquiesce. “Over the next six months, I will solicit input from our local VA leaders and external stakeholders on how best to target our funding to the geographical areas that need it most,” he said. “Based on that input we will come forward with proposals for fiscal year 2019 on how to improve the targeting of our homeless program funding.”

That’s a delay, not a promise. A program that has proven itself so effective at solving an immensely difficult problem deserves a whole-hearted endorsement, and advocates shouldn’t rest until Shulkin provides one.

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