Join the Challenge to End Homelessness Among Veterans: A Message from Laura Green Zeilinger

Join the Challenge to End Homelessness Among Veterans: A Message from Laura Green Zeilinger

From left: First Lady Michelle Obama, Laura Zeilinger, Mayor Ralph Becker, Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson, Secretary Shaun Donovan, Chris Fuentes

Yesterday, I had the honor and privilege to stand with First Lady Michelle Obama and with Veterans Chris Fuentes and Doran Hocker to announce the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.

With HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, VA Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson, and with mayors and county officials from across the country, The First Lady charged all Americans to commit to the goal to end homelessness among Veterans in 2015 and to act with urgency, saying, "even one homeless veteran is a shame...the fact that we have 58,000 is a moral outrage."

Homelessness among Veterans is impossible to accept.  But we don’t have to accept it; we can solve it.  We have the power, resources, and know-how to ensure that no Veteran has to live on the streets, or in cars or abandoned buildings, or in the desperate circumstances people find themselves in because they don’t have a home. 

When Chris Fuentes returned home from serving her country in Iraq, her apartment and her job were gone.  She lived without a home until a fellow Veteran told her about the HUD-VASH program.  She got a voucher; she got a home of her own—a safe and stable place from which to achieve her bright future.

Doran Hocker served in the Air Force during Vietnam.  He came home and fell into an experience of homelessness that lasted nearly 30 years.  Doran found help in St. Paul, Minnesota.  He got into the stable housing with the supportive services he needed to help him achieve his goals. Now, Doran serves as a caseworker and helps other Veterans achieve their goals of stable housing.  I am proud and humbled to serve alongside dedicated partners like Doran.

Together, we can make sure that no Veteran has to face the same uncertainty and suffering that Chris and Doran faced—and that thousands of our neighbors, our Veterans, our families, children, and youth still face today. We can build the community systems necessary to end the suffering. With strong leadership and collaboration across all stakeholders, we can use data to drive results and accountability; we can focus our efforts on stable housing outcomes that use evidence-based solutions like Housing First, permanent supportive housing, and rapid-rehousing.

It was not long ago that homelessness was taboo in politics and policy-making: a shameful injustice that was managed and not solved, a failure of our systems that was too risky for most elected leaders to touch.

Times are changing!

The commitment of so many local leaders and stakeholders proves we, as a nation, have made the shift from reluctantly accepting that homelessness is part of who we are to, instead, acting with determination and urgency to ensure that everyone has a home. Achieving this goal sets a clear path to ending all types of homelessness: chronic homelessness and homelessness among families, children, youth, and individuals.  

This is an awesome challenge. If you haven’t committed to end Veteran homelessness in your community in 2015, join us.  The Mayors Challenge isn’t just for mayors; it’s for everyone. It will take all of us working together to end this national tragedy once and for all.

We are fully your partners to do what needs to be done in your community.  You can help set the table in your community for all partners and stakeholders to come together and work as one to achieve the promise of Opening Doors for everyone. Because everyone deserves a safe and stable place to call home.

Learn how you can join the Challange here.  Thank you for your partnership.