The Obama administration has reduced veterans homelessness by 24 percent since 2010, but roughly 58,000 veterans across the nation are still without permanent homes.
However, the administration is committed to its goal of ending veterans homelessness by the end of 2015.
To aid that effort, First Lady Michelle Obama, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced Wednesday the creation of the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.
The first lady said today’s homeless veteran population only makes up .3 percent of the nation’s total veteran population. “But even one homeless veteran is a shame,” she said during the live-streamed event at the White House. “The fact we have 58,000 is a moral outrage.”
So far, 77 mayors, four governors, and four county executives have signed on to help end veterans homelessness in their communities by the end of 2015 by using federal, local, and nonprofit resources.
The first lady said these leaders are best equipped to address these issues because they know their communities inside and out, and she urged other local and state leaders across the country to get involved.
She cited the successes of Salt Lake City and Phoenix, which have ended chronic homelessness among veterans with buy-in from local officials and community partners, as examples of what other cities can achieve.
She also issued a call to action for all Americans to aid the cause by volunteering to help veterans, donating money, starting a donation drive, or encouraging local officials to sign on to the challenge.
“Now is the time to act with greater urgency and resolve,” said Laura Zeilinger, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Ending Homelessness. “We call on every mayor and local leader to convene community partners, focus efforts on outcomes, and instill relentless accountability to deliver on this commitment for every single one of our veterans.”
To aid local and state officials, the federal government has provided resources and enforced programs to strengthen the country’s homelessness assistance programs, such as the HUD-VASH voucher program.
The resources can include:
- Using a Housing First approach, which provides permanent housing as quickly as possible;
- Prioritizing the most vulnerable veterans for permanent supportive housing opportunities;
- Coordinating outreach efforts to identify and engage veterans experiencing homelessness;
- Targeting rapid re-housing interventions toward veterans who need shorter-term rental subsidies and services;
- Leveraging housing and services resources that can help veterans who are ineligible for some of the VA’s programs;
- Increasing early detection and access to preventive services so at-risk veterans remain stably housed; and
- Closely monitoring progress toward the goal, including the success of programs achieving permanent housing outcomes.
“We’ve proven we can reduce veterans homelessness,” said VA Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson. “Now let’s end it.”
To learn more about the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, visit http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/comm_planning/veteran_information/mayors_challenge/.