With a scarf and a clipboard, I joined many government officials to conduct a census of people who were spending the night on the street in D.C. with low temperatures in the 30s.
Imagine if your pillow was a cold concrete slab.
It was for too many people I met on the night of the 2013 Washington, D.C. Point-in-Time count. With a scarf and a clipboard, I joined Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA) Eric K. Shinseki, Deputy Secretary W. Scott Gould, and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan and others to conduct a census of people who were spending the night on the street in D.C. with low temperatures in the 30s. As you know, the information gathered during the annual January count helps VA and HUD allocate resources to the communities that need them most.
We’re on the right track. Data from last year’s count show that there’s been a 7.2 percent decline in Veteran homelessness since 2011 and a 17.2 percent decline since 2009. But our mission is not complete as long as any Veteran goes without permanent housing or worries about keeping a home. With the help of dedicated and committed VA staff, partnered with community organizations, volunteers, professionals, and philanthropists like you, we resolve to continue our mission to end Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.
This year, Veteran’s Affairs continued to increase funding for initiatives that help Veterans and their families avoid and overcome homelessness using the Housing First approach. These initiatives will help us reach our goal of bringing the number of Veterans without a home to zero, while providing resources and treatment for the obstacles these Veterans face.
But many Veterans struggle to keep their homes because they can’t pay security deposits or buy basic items to set up an apartment—like cleaning supplies, furniture, and kitchenware. Funders Together to End Homelessness worked closely with VA and HUD last year to develop an unprecedented pilot program that supplements federal programs, so when Veterans receive housing, they can transform it into a safe, stable home.
Your dedication to this issue and your tireless support of our nation’s Veterans through philanthropy and community activism is critical to our nationwide effort to end chronic homelessness. Veterans served our country, and every day we must renew our commitment to serve them. Remember that VA’s National Call Center for Homeless Veterans provides free, confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Veterans in need of immediate assistance or at imminent risk of losing their homes can Make the Call to 877-4AID-VET or chat online at www.va.gov/homeless. Trained, supportive professionals can connect them with the VA services they’ve earned. I encourage you to share this resource with the service providers you work with.
Veterans showcase the strength of America abroad and at home. Many who fall on hard times don’t know about the resources they’ve earned. Because you are coordinating the programs that work to end homelessness among our nation’s Veterans and their families, you are among our most powerful partners for spreading the word about the resources that can help. I am excited and grateful to be working with you.
Remember, we can all do something to end Veteran homelessness.
Dr. Susan Angell is the Executive Director of the Homeless Veterans Initiatives Office at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs