The Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness has expanded nationwide over the past seven months. In fact, Portland, Oregon and Honolulu, Hawaii became the most recent cities to accept the challenge to end veteran homelessness issued by First Lady Michelle Obama in June of 2014. “Even one homeless veteran is a shame. The fact that we have 58,000 is a moral outrage,” said the First Lady while launching the Mayors Challenge.
Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), more than 440 mayors, governors, county executives, and other local officials are now committed to ending veteran homelessness in America by December 31, 2015. This includes each of the 25 cities with the highest densities of homeless veterans.
Our message to cities that have not yet joined the challenge: It’s neither too late nor unachievable. To date, a number of cities have seen success in reducing veteran homelessness. In less than two years, New Orleans successfully housed more than 200 homeless veterans, becoming the first city to house all its veterans and reach the federal goal a year in advance. Since 2010, veteran homelessness has been reduced 33 percent, including a 43 percent reduction in unsheltered homeless veterans. It's clear that this is an achievable opportunity, and Joining Forces looks forward to working with any community that wants to give back to those who gave for their country.
The progress we've seen so far would not be possible without individuals like Laura Zeilinger. Laura is the former Executive Director of USICH and has led the charge to eliminate veteran homelessness. She has moved on to serve as the Director of the Department of Human Services for the District of Columbia.
Laura’s tireless efforts with the USICH advanced the core goal of ensuring that every veteran who has served America has a home in America. Laura’s commitment to end homelessness has helped thousands achieve housing stability.
Thanks to her dedication, Americans for the first time ever finally have a real shot at witnessing the end of veteran homelessness.