President Lauds Collaborations to End Homelessness

Mayors Prove that Ending Chronic Homelessness Among Veterans is Possible

President Lauds Efforts in Phoenix, Salt Lake City

In last night’s State of the Union address, President Obama highlighted the incredible collaborations happening across all levels of government to end homelessness. 

“And across the country, we’re partnering with mayors, governors and state legislatures on issues from homelessness to marriage equality.”

Last week at a White house reception for more than 300 mayors, the President spoke specifically about the critical role mayors play in the lives of Americans, holding up the achievements of Mayor Ralph Becker of Salt Lake City and Mayor Greg Stanton of Phoenix, Arizona and their communities as proof that progress can be made despite challenges.  

“Everyday mayors are proving that you don’t have to wait for the gridlock to clear in congress in order to make things happen.  Mayor Greg Stanton in Phoenix and Mayor Ralph Becker in Salt Lake City have ended chronic homelessness among Veterans.”

Mayor Becker and Mayor Stanton recently announced that their communities have ended chronic homelessness among Veterans. Innovation, outcome-focused planning, and aggressive commitment combined with strategic investment at the Federal and levels, made it possible to solve what some have considered an intractable problem. Setting an example for the rest of the country, Mayor Becker and Mayor Stanton engaged in a “friendly competition” to see which community would be the first to house Veterans who were experiencing chronic homelessness. The competition, however, is not over. Both mayors have stated that this success is just one step on their way to ending homelessness among all Veterans in their communities.

Last week, four more mayors -- Mayor Chris Coleman of St. Paul, Minn., Mayor Betsy Hodges of Minneapolis, Mayor T.M. Franklin Cownie of Des Moines, Iowa, and Mayor Michael B. Coleman of Columbus, Ohio -- announced their own “friendly competition” to see which can be the first Midwest community to end homelessness among Veterans. 

National Progress and Keeping Promises

Over the past three years, homelessness among Veterans has been reduced by 24 percent, nationally. . Significantly increased Federal investment in programs like HUD-VASH and Supportive Services for Veteran Families, which research shows are effective is frequently cited as a key reason for progress.

“Across the Obama Administration we believe that no Veteran, no man or woman who has served our country, should face homelessness in our country,” said USICH Executive Director Barbara Poppe. “By working with mayors and other leaders across the country it is possible to achieve this vision.”

As the First Lady has said, “We need to uphold the dignity and rights of every veteran. And that starts by keeping up our campaign to end homelessness among veterans.”

Proven Practices Lead to Success

Mayor Becker and Mayor Stanton credit the use of evidence-based practices and community collaborations, in addition to federal investment, as the drivers of their success.  Both note the importance of adopting Housing First practices key to reach this important milestone in their goal to end Veteran homelessness in their communities. Housing First offers individuals and families experiencing homelessness immediate access to permanent affordable or supportive housing without clinical prerequisites like completion of a course of treatment or evidence of sobriety.

In a USA Today piece, Mayor Stanton explained that “navigators” – often peers -- worked one-on-one with Veterans living on the streets to connect them to housing and help them navigate the system to get the financial and other supports necessary to be successful.

Mayor Becker cites the effectiveness of the 100,000 Homes Campaign and the Rapid Results approach as a way to align and leverage community resources to solve chronic Veteran homelessness.

Through smart use of federal resources, leveraging local resources and applying proven strategies, Mayor Becker and Mayor Stanton have demonstrated that ending homelessness is possible. In speaking recently about the importance of ending homelessness among Veterans, Shaun Donovan, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said, “There is no good reason we should allow our fellow Americans to be left out in the cold when we know we have the tools to make a difference in their lives. There is certainly no good reason we should allow our Veterans to remain on the streets.”

To learn more: Check out USICH’s “Housing First Checklist” to assess whether and to what degree your community and programs are employing a Housing First approach.