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February 27, 2015
MORE THAN 150 REPRESENTATIVES OF LOCAL, STATE & FEDERAL AGENCY PARTNERS FROM ALASKA, IDAHO, OREGON & WASHINGTON STATE GATHER TO CHART PROGRESS ON ENDING VETERAN HOMELESSNESS
"We know what works," HUD regional official says, "and we know this is a goal we will achieve."
SEATTLE - More than 150 representatives of local, state and Federal organizations gathered via a video conference linked to offices in Pocatello and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offices in Anchorage, Boise, Portland, Seattle and Washington, D.C. (and from Pocatello, Idaho) on Friday, February 27th to chart the progress their communities have made - and the work that remains - to achieve their goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of calendar year 2015.
The three-hour video conference was convened by HUD Northwest Regional Administrator Administrator Bill Block as part of the nationwide Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, launched at a White House event by First Lady Michelle Obama in August, 2014. Since 2010, HUD and its partners have achieved a 33 percent reduction nationwide in the number of veterans who are homeless.
Mayors participating in the Friday Mayors Challenge video conference included Mayor Paul Loomis of Blackfoot, Mayor Patty Lent of Bremerton, Mayor Kitty Piercy of Eugene, Mayor Brian Blad of Pocatello and Mayor Paul Restucci of Sunnyside. Representatives of the mayors and county executives of the Anchorage, Bellingham, Boise, Portland, Seattle, City of Tacoma, King County, Multnomah County, Pierce County, Snohomish County and Whatcom County also participated.
"We have made significant progress in reducing veteran homelessness and we know what works," said HUD Regional Administrator Block. "Already we are seeing cities from Binghamton, New York to New Orleans, Louisiana that have ended veteran homelessness and we know this is a goal we can and will achieve."
The Mayors Challenge Regional Forum focused on presentations from participating local governments about the tools they have found most effective in reaching-out to and serving homeless veterans. A number of them indicated that they are close to attaining "functional zero" in the number of homeless veterans in their community.
- Mayor Blad of Pocatello commented on the importance of enlisting community support for the efforts and said the City had prepared and distributed a newsletter about its efforts that has been distributed to every landlord and utility customer in the City.
- Mayor Lent of Bremerton spoke about her City's use of HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers to provide affordable housing to homeless veterans adding that "we could always use more."
- Mayor Loomis of Blackfoot, a 26-year veteran of the U.S. Army, talked about the importance of effective outreach to homeless veterans. "You have to be tough," he said, "you have to be tenacious."
- Mayor Restucci of Sunnyside, also a veteran, talked about the importance of enlisting support for the effort from organizations of veterans like the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, prompting comments from Pierce County and Snohomish County officials about their successful efforts to work with personnel at Puget Sound's military institutions to discuss housing options with service members scheduled to transition-out of the military.
- Mayor Piercy described Eugene's VetLIFT - "living independently following treatment" - project, a 3-building, 41-unit complex for veterans providing supportive services and transitional housing to formerly homeless veterans.
The City of Portland representative spoke about its creation of an $80,000 Operation 424 program, a "flexible" fund that enables it to rapidly-re-house veterans by covering costs like security deposits and application fees that are not funded under the VASH voucher program, while the City of Anchorage described its "Housing First" program to address the housing needs of homeless veterans people who are chronic inebriates.
HUD Secretary Julián Castro serves on the U.S. Interagency Council on Homeless [the labor secretary is Chair] and, through HUD programs like VASH Vouchers, the Continuum of Care grants, Community Development Block Grants, the HOME Investment Partnership and the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS/HIV program, HUD provides billions of dollars every year to local governments and homeless providers to address homelessness.
"We covered a lot of ground in a very short time," Block added. "It is clear that our partners are making use of every tool and every resource to move us to zero veteran homelessness by the end of the year and the exchange of information on best practices was invigorating and inspiring. It is also clear that additional resources could prove essential and we are pleased that President Obama's proposed budget for HUD would provide them. Historically, HUD's efforts to end veteran homelessness have enjoyed wide bi-partisan support in the Congress. Since we are so close to achieving our goal of ending veteran homelessness, we hope that continues."
Visit HUD's website for more information about the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.
- Mayors Challenge Desk Book
- Mayors Challenge Regional Best Practices
- Mayors Challenge Additional Resources
HUD's mission is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD is working to strengthen the housing market to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes: utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination; and transform the way HUD does business. More information about HUD and its programs is available on the Internet at www.hud.gov and espanol.hud.gov. You can also follow HUD on Twitter at @HUDnews or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/HUD, or sign up for news alerts on HUD's News Listserv.