On August 1, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issued Press Release No 16-117, following a related White House report from the day before. The articles describe the Obama Administration’s past, present and future plans to reduce overall veteran homelessness, and the results of those efforts to date.
According to the announcements by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), veteran homelessness has been cut almost in half over the past six years, largely thanks to a national strategy to address homelessness launched in 2010. Since that time, veteran homelessness has decreased 47%, including a 17% decrease between 2015 and 2016.
According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, approximately 11% of the adult homeless population, and about 20% of the adult male homeless population, are veterans. Although precise figures are difficult to come by, HUD estimates there to be just under 48,000 veterans sleeping on the streets on any given night.
Homelessness is said to occur as a result of a lack of two things: resources and relationships. Veterans in particular are often at a higher risk of post-traumatic stress disorder, traumatic brain injury and substance abuse disorders, as well as other physical and mental health care issues that may hinder the ability to develop or maintain resources and relationships. Affordable housing designed for veterans can be an invaluable resource to sustainably give vets a hand up. Many developments provide on-site access to services that can help build and maintain relationships needed to dissolve isolation and prevent future homelessness.
Cloudbreak Communities, owned and operated by national real estate developer Cantwell-Anderson, Inc., are prime examples of veteran-focused housing. Cloudbreak Communities have created about 3,000 beds/units in nine cities across five states, and partnered with numerous public, private and non-profit entities in order to create a system of supportive services and healthcare within each site.
Diverse partnerships like these have been credited with inspiring much of the progress over the past decade. Comprehensive health care, employment opportunity, affordable housing, benefits and a variety of supportive services have been and will continue to be crucial factors in changing the daily reality for homeless citizens. Initiatives contributing to these positive changes include the Supportive Housing program (HUD-VA partnership, started in 2008), Opening Doors (USICH-VA, 2010) and the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness (launched by Michelle Obama in 2014).
Over the past several years, nearly 30 cities and two states (Connecticut and Virginia) have effectively ended veteran homelessness. Houston, Texas and Phoenix, Arizona, home to two of the multi-phase Cloudbreak Communities campuses, are among the cities to have reached this milestone. However, the construction and rehabilitation of affordable housing facilities with more units and service space, serving a greater number of citizens, is only part of the equation, per Mr. Tim Cantwell, developer of Cloudbreak Communities.
“A deep part of the strategic planning and coordination” occurs through collaboration with “housing authorities, city, county, state and federal agencies, such as HUD, the VA, and the Department of Labor, as well as the greater service providers/care giver community and homeless coalitions” to ensure veteran needs are met.
Although the steady progress is surely something to celebrate, leaders of these efforts agree that help and focus is needed now more than ever. Click here for the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans page, where you can learn more about specific opportunities to contribute in your local communities. “It’s been difficult, and at the same time, mostly rewarding,” Tim Cantwell had to say. “A lot more work to go.”
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