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Begich Asks VA to Detail Alaska Efforts to Combat Homelessness

Writes Secretary Shinseki w/ Alaska's Needs

With winter rapidly approaching, U.S. Sen. Mark Begich wrote yesterday to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki to remind the administration of the need to reduce homelessness among Alaska's veterans and suggest ways the VA can act to help.

"We've made a promise to provide for veterans who sacrificed in the defense our country," said Sen. Begich. "As winter approaches and Alaska's homeless veterans face increased dangers from their exposure to the elements, I've asked Secretary Shinseki to detail the VA's current efforts to help homeless veterans in Alaska and across the country."

Sen. Begich cited the need for the VA to address veterans-in-need across Alaska by providing:

·         More HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers. This program provides eligible homeless veterans with case management and supportive services to support stability and recovery from physical and mental health, substance use, and functional concerns contributing to or resulting from homelessness.

·         More Housing First units. This is an alternative to a system of emergency shelter/transitional housing progressions. It moves homeless individuals into their own apartments.

·         More opportunities for community non-profits to provide the needed services, such as case management and mental health care.

"In the last two years, dozens of homeless individuals have died of exposure on the streets of Anchorage. I ask for your help in making certain every homeless veteran in Alaska has a safe place to sleep at night," Sen. Begich writes in the letter.

Secretary Shinseki visited Alaska during Memorial Day 2011. He had an opportunity to see how the VA operates in Alaska first hand during stops in Anchorage, Bethel and Kwigillingok.

Sen. Begich's letter is available on Scribd.

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