National Push to End Homelessness Among Veterans to Continue

National Push to End Homelessness Among Veterans to Continue

Although goals set by the Obama administration and Community Solutions, a national nonprofit organization, to end homelessness among veterans have not been met, advocates see signs that the problem is on its way to being solved, the Associated Press reports.

In 2010, the  administration set a goal of ending homelessness among veterans by 2015. That has been effectively achieved in two states — Virginia and Connecticut — and in thirty-one communities, according to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, while the number of homeless veterans nationwide is down 47 percent. But that still leaves roughly forty thousand veterans across the country in shelters or on the streets.

To get homeless veterans into permanent housing, the Obama administration used a program that combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Officials in communities that have effectively ended veteran homelessness, including Bergen County, New Jersey, and San Antonio, Texas, told the AP the key was coordination among government agencies and nonprofits. A shift from requiring the homeless to first get sober or get treatment to housing them first, then providing services to address the root causes of their homelessness also helped.

The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness told the AP it would not relax its efforts to house veterans until every community in the nation has reached the goal, while Community Solutions will continue its work under a new campaign called "Built for Zero." Elsewhere, Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald told the AP he expects homelessness among veterans to be solved "within a couple of years" and called on his agency and its partners to house as many veterans as possible over the next thirty days.

"Would it have been great if everyone met their goal? Of course it would've," said Traci Strickland, who supervises homeless programs at a community mental health center in West Virginia. "It was lofty, and to make the amount of headway that has been made in Charleston, West Virginia, and in cities across the country, that's huge. We didn't meet the goal for everybody, but we met the goal for a lot of people."