Veteran homelessness is on the decline and ending it can be accomplished, but private funding is needed to fill the gaps that currently exist in programs and services. Will philanthropy answer the call?
WE NEED YOU!
They have given their all for their country. They have sacrificed themselves to keep us safe in our homes – and yet there are too many veterans who now do not have homes of their own, who live in their cars, in shelters or on the streets. This is a shameful reality in our country - one which none of us should be willing to accept and one that calls us to action, calls us to do something now.
The good news is that over the past five years we have seen a dramatic reduction in the number of our veterans who are experiencing homelessness. We know what to do to ensure that every veteran has a safe, stable and permanent place to call home. What we don’t have is all the resources it is going to take to make this a new reality of no homeless veterans in our country.
The good news is that the incredible commitment of President Obama, and the passion, commitment and hard work of First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden – through their Joining Forces initiative – has led the way to unprecedented federal support. Funding has increased to support our veterans through such programs as HUD-VASH and SSVF, providing housing and services to aid individuals and families return to housing.
But as much as the government is supporting this, there are gaps – there are things that government cannot pay for and this is where we need philanthropy to step up and help. The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) has produced a number of quick guides to the gaps and where help is needed. Please take a look at these and consider where you might be able to play a role.
Funders Together to End Homelessness was honored to participate in a meeting at the White House, hosted by Joining Forces, which brought attention to the work still to be done to house all our veterans. A number of speakers addressed the audience with enlightening facts and urgent calls to action. The event opened with Joining Forces Executive Director, Nicole Malachowski and Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert A. McDonald conveying the urgency of ending veteran homelessness and the collaboration that is needed to do so.
Federal Leadership, including Matthew Doherty, USICH Executive Director, Ann Oliva, HUD Director of the Office of Special Needs Assistance Programs, and Lisa Pape, Veteran Affairs National Director of Homeless Programs, took the stage to educate attendees on what it actually means to end veteran homelessness and the programs and strategies in place focused on meeting that goal. They also addressed the gaps in current programs and the opportunities at hand for private funders to get involved such as “Welcome Home” kits, Peer Outreach Specialists and Housing Navigators and the recruitment of landlords who are willing to rent to veterans.
Funders Together Executive Director, Anne Miskey, moderated a panel of individuals who spoke on their partnership experiences and how the private sectors is working to drive progress. Panelist, including Mandy Chapman Semple of the City of Houston, Christine Marge of United Way of Greater Los Angeles and Jessica Venegas of Community Solutions, outlined their experience with private funding and the biggest impact it had in their communities. They reiterated that with even a modest investment from private funders, the nationwide issue of veteran homelessness can be solved in an efficient and effective way.
But the support of private partnerships went beyond government entities and non-profits. Attendees also heard from Leon Drake, a veteran with lived experience who emphasized the importance of the work being done in both private and public sectors to end veteran homelessness. His testimony provided a personal reminder of the people that, as a community, we are working to help. To conclude the event, the principle remarks came from HUD Secretary Julian Castro as he spoke of HUD’s interagency efforts to end not only veteran homelessness, but all homelessness and the role private partnerships played in these efforts. Tina Tchen, First Lady’s Chief of Staff, reinforced the urgency in this issue and its importance for not only the First Lady, but the Administration as a whole.
The overarching theme of collaboration and the critical need to partner with the private sector was echoed in every presentation throughout the day. Each speaker stressed how ending veteran homelessness is essential but it can only be accomplished by collaborating with private partners to fill the gaps that are present in current efforts.
This is where you are needed. Please consider supporting the need and help us to effectively end veteran homelessness in our country. And remember – if and when we end homelessness for our veterans, we can show the country and the world that we can end homelessness for all people.