States Push to Eliminate Veteran Homelessness

Over the past year a number of major cities declared they had ended veteran homelessness — including Phoenix, New Orleans, Salt Lake City and Louisville — as part of a federal initiative, Zero: 2016. Now, three states are on track to achieve the same goal.

One strategy shared by the three states — Connecticut, New Mexico and Rhode Island — is tracking homeless veterans by name, reports Stars and Stripes. In Rhode Island, the individuals are ranked by their likelihood of dying if they remain on the street based on a vulnerability assessment conducted by advocacy groups, reported Stars and Stripes.

A committee meets weekly to find permanent housing for each person, with much of the discussion focusing on overcoming challenges preventing an individual from moving into an apartment, such as having a criminal record.

Eric Hirsch, a professor at Providence College who works with the Rhode Island Coalition for the Homeless, says veterans may still experience homelessness in the state, but they can now be housed within a reasonable amount of time.

“The goal is that no one, after the end of 2015, no veteran will spend more than 30 days in a shelter; we will move them into permanent housing within that 30-day period,” Hirsch told Rhode Island Public Radio.

The state is emphasizing a “housing first” strategy, which prioritizes getting people into permanent housing, he said. Once homeless veterans are placed in an apartment, they are offered a range of services, including substance abuse and mental health counseling.

State funding to subsidize rents for homeless veterans is another factor helping making a dent in veteran homelessness in Rhode Island, according to the story.

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