New York, Philadelphia End Veteran Homelessness

With the Obama administration’s target for eliminating veteran homelessness fast approaching, several major cities — along with a number of counties and smaller cities — in recent weeks announced they had set up systems and had resources in place to ensure all veterans experiencing chronic homelessness are either housed or are on an immediate path to permanent housing.

Last week, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the city had reached that goal after a two-year effort involving city agencies, the federal government and several nonprofit organizations serving veterans.

“Today we have ensured that those in the veteran community who have struggled to find and remain in housing time and time again will have a stable place to call home,” de Blasio said according to a press release.

Earlier in December, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter said his city had effectively ended veteran homelessness. In both cities, a handful of veterans remain on the streets after refusing housing assistance.

“I have a message for each of you who are still out there,” Nutter said during his Dec. 17 announcement, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer. “We honor your service and your sacrifices. You deserve a home. We won’t give up on you.”

Over the past year, a number of cities have met President Obama’s challenge to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. As of late December, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had officially recognized 15 jurisdictions that have succeeded, including Houston, Las Vegas and New Orleans. In November, Virginia declared that it had become the first state to meet the federal definition of ending homelessness among veterans.

HUD recently acknowledged that the administration’s end-of-the-year deadline for eliminating veteran homelessness nationwide would not be met, but officials highlighted the 36 percent drop in the number of homeless veterans over the past five years.

“The thing is that we can’t stop our work until every single veteran has a place to call home in the United States. That means that you have a role to play in teaching other communities how you did it,” HUD Secretary Julián Castro said prior to Philadelphia’s announcement in December.

For some veterans advocates, ending veteran homelessness as defined by the federal government still leaves more to be accomplished.

“This is a great example of spiking the ball before you cross the goal line,” Paul Rieckhoff, president of the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, told the Observer following last week’s announcement in New York. “There’s been tremendous progress, but there’s still a long way to go — and there’s a big difference between ending chronic homelessness and ending functional homelessness and ending real homelessness,” Rieckhoff said.

Dan Cohen
Dan Cohen
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