On Wednesday the office of Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe issued a striking press release: Virginia has "functionally" ended homelessness for military veterans in that state. Mic.com breaks down just what that means:
[Virginia] has met the federal definition of ending homelessness, meaning there are no veterans who lack housing, except for those who have refused an offer. The benchmark also means that state has the resources to take in any veterans who want housing in the future within 90 days.
Virginia, which has the seventh largest veteran population in the country, has matched more than 1,400 homeless veterans with permanent housing in the past year, McAuliffe's office said.
Homelessness among veterans is a national disgrace. According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, nearly 50,000 men and women who served their country on the battlefield find themselves homeless on any given night, a number that includes some 12,700 veterans who fought in Iraq or Afghanistan since 9/11. And the number of young homeless veterans is gradually increasing, often due to trauma sustained on the battlefield. Given the scandals that have marred the Department of Veterans Affairs in recent years, this treatment of our fighting men and women is an outright embarrassment.
Virginia may be showing the rest of the country a way forward. Virginia's achievement is an outgrowth from the Mayor's Challenge to End Homelessness, a concentrated effort promoted by the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the VA in 2014 to help homeless vets find shelter by the end of 2015. Virginia succeeded through a "Housing First" protocol—a policy that, as Mic.com reported, "holds that providing homeless people with safe, supportive shelter is a precondition for attending to the issues that caused them to slip through the cracks in the first place."
This is only the beginning. Mic.com reported that veteran homelessness has declined by 36 percent nationwide since the White House began efforts to end the crisis back in 2010. Cities outside of Virginia which have successfully established programs giving shelter to vets who need it include Phoenix and New Orleans and more recently, Las Vegas and Syracuse, N.Y.
In his statement regarding this hopeful step forward, Governor Terry McAuliffe said his state "must remain committed to keeping homelessness among veterans, and, all Virginians, rare, brief and non-recurring."
"This successful effort," he continued, "will serve as the launching pad for our next goal of functionally ending chronic homelessness among all Virginians by the end of 2017.”
We can only hope that other states follow Virginia's lead.
Photos by Mitchell Funk / Getty