Utah has largely wiped out chronic homelessness among its veterans.
The state reached a milestone as chronic homelessness among vets fell to an “effective zero,” announced officials. This means that the state has enough resources and a working system in place to house every chronically homeless veteran.
Although there will always be newly homeless individuals and those who evade being counted and assisted, Utah has made big strides in the battle against homelessness.
The recent success goes beyond veterans. The overall number of people experiencing chronic homelessness declined 9 percent based on counts conducted by communities across Utah in January. The point-in-time count found that the number of chronically homeless people fell from 542 to 495 this year.
“Without a doubt, Utah’s Housing First approach continues to show that ending chronic homelessness is entirely realistic,” said Lt. Gov. Greg Bell, chairman of the State Homeless Coordinating Committee, in a statement. “This is truly a victory for those involved in the process. Collaboration between government, nonprofit, and private agencies is the key to Utah’s success. By placing our chronically homeless population into permanent supportive housing with case management, we have seen real change in individuals’ lives and simultaneously created efficiencies within our community systems of care.”
In general, the Housing First strategy calls for moving homeless individuals off the streets and into permanent supportive housing immediately and then combining that with treatment programs and other services. It’s a change from the earlier thinking that people needed to be in treatment or receiving services before getting housing.
Utah officials also cited the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program (HUD-VASH), which combines housing choice voucher rental assistance for homeless vets with case management and services from the VA. The state received 85 new VASH vouchers in Salt Lake and Washington counties in 2012, according to its Comprehensive Report on Homelessness last year. Fifty vouchers were just awarded in May as part of the 2013 VASH funding
In addition, the Salt Lake City Housing Authority dedicated the 72-unit Valor House on the VA campus last year.