When ‘zero’ is possible: How one state and two cities ended Veteran homelessness

Department of Veterans Affairs | VAvantage Point | April 19, 2016

This article originally appeared on www.NeighborWorks.org.

More than 20 cities and states across the country have declared an end to Veteran homelessness. In compliance with federal guidelines, they have moved every identified Veteran who is in need and is willing to accept help into permanent housing. And, with more than 850 state, city and county leaders on record as accepting First Lady Michelle Obama’s challenge to end Veteran homelessness, more communities are expected to make similar announcements in the coming weeks and months.

How are they doing it? To see what’s working, we spoke to officials from Virginia, New Orleans and Houston, each of which recently reached this milestone. Although their situations are unique, many common approaches stand out. For instance, efforts in all three jurisdictions were jump-started following local officials’ attendance at a series of homeless Veteran “rapid-results boot camps” held around the country in 2012 and 2013. Other common ingredients of success include goal-setting and coordination of resources, systems and people.

Top-level leadership and coordination are key   

Matt Leslie beamed with pride when Gov. Terry McAuliffe took to the podium on Veterans Day 2015 and proclaimed Virginia had housed 1,432 homeless Veterans since the previous October—becoming the first state to systemically end Veteran homelessness.

For Leslie, it affirmed the role his office played, with visible backing from the governor, in coordinating people and resources—from the VA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), to state agencies, to the private sector.

“What we did is make sure the local continuums of care [CoCs] and VA worked together,” Leslie says. HUD’s CoCs are local and regional planning bodies that coordinate housing and homeless funding and services.

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