That’s why she’s been part of the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness – a partnership between the departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs – which pledges to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.
She spoke Thursday about the challenge and the progress at the National Conference to End Homelessness.
“As you know,as first lady I’ve been blown away by the stories of courage,of selflessness that define our veterans and their families,” she said. “Every single time they’re asked,these men and women answer the call and give this country everything they’ve got. And the fact that right now our country has more than 58,000 homeless veterans,well that’s a stain on the soul of this nation.”
Two months since the challenge began,182 communities have gotten involved.
Leon Drake,who introduced the first lady,was homeless twice. He first lived on the streets after witnessing a murder,causing him to slip into a depression. He recovered,found housing and rejoined the Army. But when he retired in North Carolina after 21 years of service,he was unable to keep up with his bills.
He moved to Washington and was referred to Friendship Place’s Veterans First Program,a housing stability program. Within a few weeks,he had his own apartment.
“I am so incredibly grateful to Friendship Place,” he said. “I just wish so much I had come to them right away. If I had,I’m certain I would not have had to experience life in a shelter or on the streets.”
According to the VA,there has been a 24 percent reduction in homelessness among veterans since 2010.
Since 2008,73,000 veterans have found housing through HUD and VA supportive housing vouchers – 40 times as many veterans as were housed since the program began in the 1990s.
“So we are seeing that with enough resources and the right strategies – strategies like housing first,rapid rehousing – we can make huge amounts of progress in a very short period of time,” the first lady said. “And now,we can see the finish line. As we all know,ending homelessness for our veterans can also be a crucial first step – a proof point – to show that we can end homelessness for everyone in this country,too.”
Reach reporter Erin Bell at [email protected] or 202-326-9866. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire.