The Clock is Ticking on Veteran Homelessness. Does Your Community Have a Plan?

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.

In many communities, leaders have already made decisions about precisely what needs to be done, who’s going to do it, and when. Some communities, like those participating in the 25 Cities initiative or the Zero: 2016 Campaign, already have concrete plans in place and are implementing them. Many other communities, however, are going to have to make things happen within the next few weeks to make a significant impact by the end of the year.

For these communities, it’s not too late, but things need to start happening fast. Anybody can step up and exercise leadership. If you’re an advocate or a stakeholder in such a community, your first step is to convene a leadership committee. At the minimum, such a committee should consist of a mayor’s representative, the lead for the Continuum of Care, the homelessness coordinator for the VA Medical Center, and the nonprofit that administers the SSVF program.

Here is a simple resource we put together to get your committee started: Five Steps to End Veterans Homelessness. To make real progress, your leadership committee should pull together people who can agree on how to accomplish each step and establish a timeline for accomplishing them. That means setting clear goals, benchmarks, and deadlines.

Many communities around the country have ramped up the number of homeless people they’re re-housing with a 100-Day Re-Housing Challenge. This is a great way to rally the support of stakeholders in your community to house as many homeless veterans as possible in the 100 days leading up to the federal deadline. It’s enough time to have a big impact, but limited enough to convey the right sense of urgency. (And it’s easy to remember!)

Now as we all know, the federal government’s official deadline is the end of 2015. But what does that really mean? The end of the year is December 31, of course, but many communities will have no practical way of knowing how many homeless veterans they have until they do their Point-in-Time Counts.

So for many communities the deadline will be the end of January, when they conduct those counts. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) endorsed using the Point-in-Time Count as the target date in its FAQ on the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, a helpful document for anyone looking for HUD’s considered positions on many questions they may have about this goal.

If your community is aiming for December 31, a 100-day final push will start September 22, less than four weeks from now. If you’re aiming for January 25, when communities will kick off their Point-in-Time count week, then 100 days begins October 17.

I’ll be blogging once a week for the next month about how communities are kicking off their final push to get to zero. In that time, if you have any questions have an update on the progress your community is making you want to share, please don’t hesitate to reach out. I’m at