At the end of this year we will reach the deadline for a truly historic goal set in 2010: an end to homelessness among all veterans! The clock is ticking.
Since the goal was set in the federal government’s strategic plan Opening Doors, we’ve seen tremendous progress around the country. Just today, the federal government declared Connecticut the first state to end chronic homelessness among veterans. True, chronically homeless veterans make up a fraction of the total homeless veteran population, but this is an important achievement, one we expect to see repeated soon.
Each year, thousands of Americans transition from active duty military service to veteran status. But after fighting for our country, these men and women are more likely than civilians to experience homelessness. Though the reasons for this are varied, many veterans struggle to return to civilian life, placing them at increased risk of experiencing homelessness. On any given night, nearly 50,000 veterans are homeless.
In 2009, our federal government acknowledged the growing problem of veteran homelessness and proposed a solution. Then-Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki, in conjunction with President Barack Obama, established the audacious goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. We’re now more than halfway through the year, with only five months to go. So how are we doing?
I am so happy to welcome you to our national conference on ending homelessness. The board and staff of the Alliance are deeply gratified that you have joined us here. And we thank all of you, also, for what you do to end homelessness across the nation.
This has been a year with many challenges. The gap between those who have and those who do not is growing; and many who are poor feel that their opportunities to escape poverty are shrinking. There are tremendous and persistent racial disparities. The cost of housing is increasing, but incomes are not keeping pace.
These are the big picture problems, and we have our challenges on the homelessness side of things, as well. At the national level, funding is getting harder to come by. The work that you are doing – coordinated assessment and entry, rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, critical time intervention, housing first, trauma informed care – are more sophisticated and effective. But they are also harder, requiring different skill sets, different administrative infrastructures, and different types of accountability.
It is with a mixture of excitement and sadness that I write this “goodbye” blog post for the Alliance. After more than five years here, I am ready to take on the challenge of grad school, but I will miss working with passionate and driven people across the country dedicated to such an important topic.
In my time here, I’ve learned a few things – well, I’ve learned a ton of things, but for the sake of this post, I’ll narrow it down to just the big ones.
This video is a recording of a webinar that originally streamed, June 18, 2015, that covered steps two and four of the Alliance's "Five Steps for Ending Veteran Homelessness" resource. Presenters from the Alliance and UNITY of Greater New Orleans discussed strategies for recruiting landlords, identifying housing stock and supportive services, and matching veterans with them to ensure that they are successfully and permanently housed.