A national network of funders supporting strategic, innovative, and effective solutions to homelessness

Veteran Homelessness: We’re on the Right Track

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

Update: from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs‘ Homeless Veterans Initiatives Office

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We joined Funders Together because we believe in the power of philanthropy to play a major role in ending homelessness, and we know we have much to learn from funders across the country.

-Christine Marge, Director of Housing and Financial Stability at United Way of Greater Los Angeles

I am thankful for the local partnerships here in the Pacific Northwest that we’ve been able to create and nurture thanks to the work of Funders Together. Having so many of the right players at the table makes our conversations – and all of our efforts – all the richer and more effective.

-David Wertheimer, Deputy Director at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Very often a lack of jobs and money is not the cause of poverty, but the symptom. The cause may lie deeper in our failure to give our fellow citizens a fair chance to develop their own capacities, in a lack of education and training, in a lack of medical care and housing, in a lack of decent communities in which to live and bring up their children.

-President Lyndon B. Johnson, 1964 State of the Union Address

Funders Together has given me a platform to engage the other funders in my community. Our local funding community has improved greatly to support housing first models and align of resources towards ending homelessness.

-Leslie Strnisha, Vice President at Sisters of Charity Foundation of Cleveland

Our family foundation convenes local funders and key community stakeholders around strategies to end homelessness in Houston. Funders Together members have been invaluable mentors to us in this effort, traveling to our community to share their expertise and examples of best practices from around the nation.

-Nancy Frees Fountain, Managing Director at The Frees Foundation

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