THE BLOG

D.C.'s Willy Wonka Approach to Un-Housing Homeless Veterans

03/21/2011 03:07 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

There were only five tickets in the whole world. Mr. Wonka's marketing strategy was as ingenious as Steve Jobs' campaign to sell iPads: hide these golden tickets in the popular Wonka chocolate bars, and everyone on earth will be scrambling to buy that succulent bar of sugar.

Sure enough, with such small inventory of tickets, people waited for hours to get their hands on that coveted Golden Ticket that would get them a tour of the candy factory and a lifetime supply of Wonka bars.

Interestingly, the fiction of Willy Wonka is becoming reality today. And not with that scarce popular electronic device that Mr. Jobs is currently hawking.

The debate over the spending cuts currently occurring in Washington D.C. is creating a sort of Willy Wonka affect among people who are homeless.

The federal government estimates that there are over 100,000 veterans who are homeless. Advocates believe this number has doubled in the course of a year. Many women and men who have risked their lives to fight for this country mentally struggle with the affects of war, resulting in homelessness.

Our country's response to homeless veterans is rightfully to provide them with health care and permanent housing -- but there is a barrier.

There is a very valuable "Willy Wonka voucher" that the Department of Veterans Affairs selectively gives out throughout the country called the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) voucher. For a homeless veteran, it is a ticket to permanent housing -- a ticket to a new life. It is way better than a lifetime supply of Wonka bars and way better than an iPad.

Those of us on the housing end of homelessness, literally beg for these vouchers. A VASH voucher is a ticket to housing for the hurting veterans that knock on our doors each day. They will no longer be stuck in an under-resourced shelter system, no longer huddling in an old R.V. vehicle, no longer floundering on our streets.

Last year, President Obama announced an initiative to house every homeless veteran in this country. Much of this effort is centered around these VASH housing vouchers. Yet, this year, federal lawmakers are proposing to cut 10,000 VASH vouchers from the federal budget in order to save money.

Such ill-conceived proposals feel more like Willy Wonka trying to create more of a demand, and scramble, for a limited but desperately needed commodity -- guaranteed housing. With more and more homeless Americans dying on our streets each year, a budget-reducing effort to cut housing vouchers may save money, but will result in losing lives.

This does not make sense to me. Americans risk their lives on the battlefield only to lose their lives on American streets.

Willy Wonka was a fictional tale. Let's not intentionally turn a scarcity of housing for homeless veterans into a non-fictional reality.