Friday, April 13, 2007

Obama Introduces Homes for Heroes Act

Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) yesterday introduced the Homes for Heroes Act, a bill that will help provide housing for low-income Veterans and at least begin to solve the problem of homelessness among America's military Veterans.

"Every day in America, there are men and women on street corners with handwritten signs that say 'Homeless Veteran--Will Work For Food.' Sometimes we give a dollar, sometimes we just keep walking. These are soldiers who fought in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and Iraq," said Obama on the Senate floor. "They made a commitment to their country when they chose to serve and now we must keep our commitment to them."

"Because when we make the decision to send our troops to war, we also make the decision to care for them, to speak for them, and to think of them--always--when they come home."

S. 1084, which is cosponsored so far by Senators Reid, Schumer, Menendez, Brown and Cantwell, would help expand long-term access to affordable housing for America's homeless Vets, many of whom are afflicted with lingering Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and the resulting substance-abuse problems. The legislation does this by creating a fund that will feed into community and nonprofit organizations so they can purchase, build, or rehabilitate homes and apartments for Veterans.

The bill would also provide for services like counseling, employment training, and child care for the Vets who live in this housing, while expanding the number of permanent housing vouchers for Veterans from the current number of less than 2,000 to 20,000 and making that higher number permanent.

"Each and every night in this country, more than 200,000 of our Nation's veterans are homeless. And nearly twice as many will experience homelessness over the course of a year," said the Illinois Senator, who is also a presidential candidate. "All have risked their lives for their country. All deserve--at the very least--the basic dignity of going to sleep at night with a roof over their head. And every day we allow them to go without, it brings shame to every single one of us."

And Obama seized on what is often the hypocritical nature of people who are quick to slap a support-the-troops ribbon on their vehicle, but who quickly lose interest in caring for those who served once they return home and the fighting is over.

"We're quick to offer words of praise for our troops when they're abroad, but quick to forget about their needs when they come home," said Obama. "It's wrong because we have the resources and the programs in place to help solve this problem. And it's wrong on a fundamentally moral level -- the idea that we would allow such brave and selfless citizens to suffer in such biting poverty. And so it is now our responsibility -- it is now our duty -- to make this right."

The bill has been referred to the Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee for consideration.