By Ralph Becker, Mayor of Salt Lake City
I’m always amazed to see what can happen when communities and resources come together.
With an infusion of funding for permanent supportive housing from HUD and the VA, and a promise from VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to provide Veterans and their families with “hope, a home and a future,” our community was ready to take on chronic homelessness among Veterans in Salt Lake City.
Last fall, through tremendous community outreach efforts, 100 Veterans who were chronically homeless were identified in the Salt Lake Valley. These Veterans were living on the streets or in shelters. Many were suffering from physical disability, mental illness, post traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse disorders and a lack of social infrastructure. Our community – including the VA in Salt Lake City, local housing authorities and service providers – determined to house these 100 Veterans in 100 days. And, in the spirit of healthy competition (and with the encouragement of the National League of Cities), we challenged Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and his city to do the same. Game on!
With great momentum, community partners joined me to proclaim November as Housing Veterans Month in Salt Lake City. Service providers worked diligently to continue their outreach and work with each identified Veteran. County and city housing authorities diligently processed the vouchers. And through its Good Landlord Program, the city reached out to over 2,300 landlords to identify eligible housing.
By the end of December, 2013, we could taste the fruits of our efforts. Of the 100 Veterans who we initially identified as chronically homeless, 92 were either housed or in the process of being housed. The remaining eight Veterans declined participation in the voucher program.
Phoenix? Well, the Valley of the Sun succeeded as well. My hat is off to Mayor Stanton and his community partners.
Certainly, our work is not over. While we were able to celebrate the success that came through collaboration, determination and funding, we recognize there is much more to do. Our work has only begun. We know there are other Veterans experiencing homelessness who need and want housing and supportive services. Our upcoming Point-In-Time count will provide new and useful information. We will utilize additional programs to house Veterans and continue to seek out and work with organizations such as the 100,000 Homes Campaign, USICH, HUD, and the VA to house our Veterans who are experiencing homelessness.
Salt Lake City’s progress is only possible through a wide effort – Federal, State, local and community – to work together to identify Veterans experiencing homelessness and give support as those vets make their way into permanent housing and receive needed services.
Our focus to house 100 Veterans in 100 days caused me to reflect on our country's servicemen and women. We cannot turn our backs on those who have served. Each of us can find a way to show our gratitude. As we work together we can give back to the men and women who gave so much for us. We can help ensure that our Veterans and their families have "hope, a home and a future."