Cities Make Progress Toward Ending Veteran Homelessness; More Cities Join the Effort

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Last week in Los Angeles, the 100,000 Homes Campaign sponsored the latest Veteran’s Boot Camp that brought together stakeholders from communities in Arizona, Washington, Oregon, and California. The event comes in the wake of progress being reported by cities who participated in an earlier boot camp held in Tampa, Florida in April.

This latest “Veteran’s Boot Camp” included representatives from Portland, OR; Tucson, AZ; Seattle/King County; and California communities including Riverside; San Francisco; San Bernardino; Orange County; and Sonoma County. One of the first steps these communities took was to assess the number of veterans they need to place in housing to end veteran homelessness by December 2015. This process included reviewing data from multiple sources. The participants worked together to agree upon an estimate since none of the sources provide identical figures.

Recognizing the challenges that come from starting with imperfect data, Melanie Zamora from The Road Home in Salt Lake City, Utah spoke at the Boot Camp about what their community has done. “We weren’t willing to let our inability to reconcile our data get in the way of our work to identify those in need and prioritize them for services,” said Ms. Zamora. To overcome this, the partners in Salt Lake City began regular meetings to identify the clients in need, come to agreement about what clients should be prioritized, and determine what resources were available in the community to meet the clients’ needs.

After figuring out how to work with imperfect data, identifying and knowing their homeless population by name, and establishing regular meetings, city, county, and state officials worked to create a uniform reporting process for organizations using federal Emergency Shelter Grant resources. These resources were primarily being used to fund rapid re-housing efforts, and the uniform reporting reduced administrative time and costs associated with their use. As a result, since February, Salt Lake City has been placing the homeless into housing at a rate that puts the city on a path to end veteran and chronic homelessness by the end of 2015.

In April, communities in Texas and Florida came together to develop action plans for ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.  Many of the communities that participated in the first Veteran’s Boot Camp in Tampa have made progress, including:

  • In Houston/Harris County, TX, over 100 people have housing vouchers in-hand and are actively searching for housing. They also had a successful registry event to get to know homeless individuals by name, and are working to combine data lists to clarify numbers across the community.
  • In Dallas/Fort Worth, TX, the Dallas Housing Authority made 47 HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers available to veterans. In addition, the team will hold a media event on June 20 to kick-off a campaign to raise $100,000.
  • In the central Texas region around Austin and Waco, stakeholders are working to implement a coordinated assessment and create a better process between the VA and housing providers. The VA is working to decrease length of time it takes for veterans to get into housing using HUD-VASH vouchers.
  • In Lee County, Florida, 20 veterans have been housed, and five of those housed have increased their income. In addition, the Public Housing Authority has formed a committee to grow the number of landlords they are working with.
  • In Sarasota/Manatee, Florida, the team has added seven new landlords to their list for a total of 25 participating landlords. The team is also working with VetCorp to reach the goal of ending homelessness.
  • In Tampa, Florida, they are streamlining their eligibility screening process for various programs by stationing an outreach person at the local health clinic. In addition, the Housing Authority has also pre-inspected 30 units to streamline the lease-up and move-in process.

Overall, the 100,000 Homes Campaign has a goal of housing 100,000 of the most vulnerable homeless, and in the last month the campaign formally crossed the halfway point. To date, teams in 196 communities have successfully housed 51,438 of the most vulnerable homeless, including 15,679 veterans.

In cities across the country, progress is being made by stakeholders who have come together to end the national tragedy of veteran homelessness. Albuquerque, New Mexico Mayor Richard Berry has called this work “the smart way to do the right thing.” Local leaders can use their platform to raise the profile of this work in their community, forge partnerships with other municipalities and levels of government to better leverage resources, help bring missing stakeholders to the table, and more. In many cities, the involvement of local leaders makes the difference between some success and great success. Ending homelessness among veterans is an issue that should unite everyone. Our veterans deserve no less.

To learn how NLC can support work in your community to end veteran homelessness, contact Elisha Harig-Blaine, NLC’s Senior Housing Associate at