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The First Lady: Veteran Homelessness Is a “Stain on the Soul of This Nation”

First Lady Michelle Obama calls for an end to veteran homelessness during a speech at the National Alliance to End Homelessness Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.
The First Lady addresses the 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness

First Lady Michelle Obama, in support of the Joining Forces initiative, addresses the 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness, in Washington, D.C., July 31, 2014. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)

They risked their lives for our country, yet each night tens of thousands of veterans are sleeping in shelters, in their car, or on the street. Across the country, there are more than 58,000 homeless veterans, a staggering number that First Lady Michelle Obama called “a stain on the soul of this nation,” during a speech yesterday at the National Alliance to End Homelessness Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

"But as Americans, the idea that anyone who has worn our country’s uniform spends their nights sleeping on the ground should horrify us." 

And so it is truly our duty to right this wrong and put an end to veteran homelessness, once and for all. 

But that moral and patriotic duty is only part of the reason why ending veteran homelessness is so critical. 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.

And while there is still much work to do to end veteran homelessness, over the last three years, the Administration and its partners in states and communities have achieved a 24 percent decrease in homelessness among veterans.

Thanks to federal action, local leadership and the hard work of folks like you, we are on the verge of making a major breakthrough on veteran homelessness and a breakthrough that could change the entire conversation about homelessness in this country.  So today, it’s more important than ever that we redouble our efforts, that we embrace the most effective strategies to end homelessness among our veterans once and for all. 

Since taking office, President Obama has vowed to end veteran homelessness by directing record funding to veteran programs and embracing innovative strategies to ensure veterans are getting the support they need.

Read an op-ed from the First Lady on ending veteran homelessness once and for all.

In June, the First Lady, as part of the Joining Forces initiative, announced the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. By partnering with mayors and other state and local leaders across the country who will marshal federal, local, and non-profit efforts, the goal is to end veteran homelessness in their communities by the end of 2015. The First Lady announced during her speech that in the eight weeks since the launch of the challenge, 182 communities have signed the pledge.

And now, we can see the finish line. And if we achieve our goal, if we end homelessness for our veterans, then we’ll show everyone in this country that we can also do it for all those families shuttling from motel to motel, for all those LGBT teens and for every single person experiencing homelessness throughout our country.

That has been this organization’s goal since it formed more than a quarter century ago. And today, we are so close to this major milestone for our veterans. All we have to do is finish the job. 

Read the First Lady’s full remarks here, and sign up to receive Joining Forces updates in your inbox.