For far too many veterans, the end of their military service doesn’t involve a happy homecoming when they arrive back on American soil.
According to the Department of Veteran Affairs, 62,619 veterans were counted as homeless in 2012. Despite this being a drastic decline of 17.2 percent since 2009, veteran homelessness is still a huge problem in this country. In response, cities across the country — as part of Community Solutions’ 100,000 Homes campaign — are tackling the issue of veteran homelessness, vowing to reach the Obama Administration’s goal of ending it by December 2015.
And it seems to be working: Phoenix has already declared victory in their war against veteran homelessness. Utah claims to be on track to end homelessness altogether by 2015. Tennessee was recently profiled by 60 Minutes for the state’s efforts. And now officials in the nation’s capitol are doing their part. Last week, representatives from Veterans NOW, a coalition of district and national organizations and agencies, announced that in just 100 days — between August 9 and November 30 — they were able to place 207 homeless veterans, 96 of whom were considered chronically homeless, in houses.
In 2013, a one-night census of Washington, D.C.’s homeless population found that 499 veterans were living on the streets — a 29 percent decline since 2009. However, twice as many veterans were considered “at risk” of homelessness and in need of emergency housing services. Bolstered by that statistic, national organizations like The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Human Services teamed up with local groups such as the DC Housing Authority, Miriam’s Kitchen and Pathways to Housing DC to connect homeless veterans with subsidized housing.
According to DCist (a local blog that covers all things Washington, D.C.), these veterans are assessed through a universal service prioritization decision assistance tool, which asks about their history of homelessness, risk factors, socialization and medical needs. Each person is then scored to see if he or she is considered “vulnerable,” in which case permanent supportive housing or rapid re-housing would be recommended. The veterans are housed through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program — $6.5 million in funding has provided for the D.C. region — Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH), HUD Permanent Supportive Housing and the D.C. DHS Permanent Supportive Housing program. The apartments themselves are located by officials from the D.C. Housing Authority directly reaching out landlords who partner with the organization.
The success of Veterans NOW’s first 100-day program has convinced everyone involved to give it a second go-around. Currently, the organization is in the midst of another 100-day push, where they hope to house 190 homeless veterans, including 56 who are chronically homeless, by March 31. And it looks like they’ll meet their goal. So far, 161 veterans have been placed in homes, including 84 who were considered chronically homeless. In total, communities participating in the 100,000 Homes Campaign have placed almost 89,000 homeless individuals in homes. And that number is growing every day.
While it is too soon to tell if we’ll reach President Barack Obama’s goal of eradicating veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, it looks like we’re getting a whole lot closer.