The Atlanta Journal-Constitution recently featured a story highlighting local efforts to end veteran homelessness, and the part that plays in our nation's goal to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. Each veteran success story across the nation, and the organizations and people who help make them happen, is a part of the puzzle. NCHV Executive Director Baylee Crone was also invited to write an op-ed to accompany the story (see full text below). Read the article here.
Ending homelessness among our veterans
By Baylee Crone
We began 2015 with news that New Orleans has ended veteran homelessness. In Phoenix and Salt Lake City, chronic veteran homelessness reached zero in 2014. Across the country, local organizations are working closely to offer veterans a hand up out of homelessness.
At the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, we are often asked what these results mean, what comes next for communities like yours, and what you can do to create change.
The coalition is the only national organization devoted exclusively to ending veteran homelessness. Ensuring that every veteran in crisis has a place to turn is part of our mission, carried out by 2,100-plus community organizations across the country. To us and the organizations we represent, New Orleans, Phoenix and Salt Lake City are impressive accomplishments with lessons that can be mirrored across the country.
In 2014, an annual count of homeless persons revealed 49,933 homeless veterans on a single night in January. This number represents a 33-percent decrease and incredible progress since President Barack Obama declared the problem a national priority in 2009. The Department of Veterans Affairs’ Five-Year Plan to End Veteran Homelessness, launched in 2010, changed the issue from a noble cause to a pending reality. We no longer ask if it can happen; we ask when?
Federal agencies within the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness provide complementary programs to meet each veteran’s needs. Different programs provide housing, employment and training, and temporary financial assistance. These programs are implemented by local government partners and community agencies.
Community agencies are on the front lines, helping veterans in crisis fit the pieces of their puzzle back together. At the local level, providers offer a safety net and a hand up to self-sufficiency and independence. They are fostering empowerment, halting cycles of abuse, and educating and protecting. We are proud to represent and recognize these unsung heroes.Other major partners have stepped in to do their part. In June 2014, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness as a call to action for local leaders. The aim is to make a priority of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, and to apply the VA Five-Year Plan at the local level. New Orleans, Phoenix and Salt Lake City are examples of the success a community can have with a coordinated citywide effort and clear goals involving partners.
Your community is doing its part. From 2013 to 2014, veteran homelessness dropped from 1,805 to 1,443 in Georgia. Mayor Kasim Reed made it an Atlanta priority in 2012, and the city has taken several successful steps since then. Other signers of the Mayors Challenge include Ball Ground, Waleska and DeKalb and Fulton counties.
More needs to be done. We are working to make sure no veteran sleeps on our nation’s streets, and we ask you to do your part to ensure veterans in your community have a safe, stable place to call home.
Learn more about the national campaign to end veteran homelessness at www.nchv.org.