On Veterans Day, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) and President Obama announced that the state is the first in the country to end veteran homelessness.
That means that every veteran who wants housing has been offered a place after the state says it has helped more than 1,400 veterans get into permanent housing in the last year. It also now has structures in place to ensure that any veteran who falls into homelessness in the future will be able to get back into housing within 90 days. As of 2013, there were more than 7,600 homeless people in the state, 9 percent of whom were veterans.
Connecticut announced in August that it housed all chronically homeless veterans – those that have been homeless for a year straight or four times in the last three – but Virginia is the first state to say it has found housing for them all.
Virginia beat the deadline it signed on to as part of the White House’s challenge to end veteran homelessness by the end of the year. Some cities had already gotten there: New Orleans, Houston, and Las Cruces, New Mexico ended veteran homelessness earlier in the year, while Phoenix and Salt Lake City ended chronic homelessness last year. On Wednesday, Obama also announced that Syracuse and Schenectady in New York and Las Vegas had ended homelessness for their veteran populations. More cities and states are likely to make announcements before the end of the year, as more than 20 mayors across the country also signed on.
It can be challenging in some places, though. Los Angeles had signed on to the pledge, only to pull out two months ago while announcing a state of emergency for its homeless population. Portland, Oregon, Seattle, and the state of Hawaii have declared similar states of emergency.
Housing is the biggest variables. New York City, for example, has signed onto the pledge and this summer said it was on track to get there by the end of the year, but there is very little available housing stock, let alone affordable housing, to put veterans in. With enough funding for affordable housing, the country could actually end homelessness for all people, veterans and others, a population of more than 600,000 people, relatively quickly and easily. There are some mechanisms available to do just that; hey just haven’t been given the resources.