Phoenix says it’s the first city to end chronic homelessness among veterans

December 20, 2013

Virginia veteran Ernie Maas, 61, smiles after entering his new one-bedroom apartment in Arlington for the first time. Maas, who served in the Navy during and after the Vietnam War, was homeless for about two years. (Astrid Riecken for The Washington Post)

Phoenix says it eradicated chronic veteran homelessness Wednesday.

Three years ago a state coalition aimed at ending chronic homelessness among veterans identified 222 living in Phoenix. As of early November, 56 remained, but a $100,000 allocation of funds enabled the city to house them all as of mid-week, winning what the mayor’s office described as a friendly competition with Utah’s Salt Lake City to become the first U.S. city to do so.

“Phoenix can take its place as role model city for gratitude and care towards veterans,” Stanton said in a release.

Phoenix’s push was part of a broader national campaign. President Obama has pushed to end chronic homelessness among veterans by 2015, a goal that officials say they are on their way to achieving.

“We are on the right track in the fight to end homelessness among Veterans,” Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said in a late-November statement.

Since 2010, veteran homelessness has declined by 24 percent nationally, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. But a single-night count from January suggests that there are still somewhere around 57,849 homeless veterans nationwide. Just under 8 percent were women.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the VA have awarded millions of dollars in grants to local groups helping to further the cause. In July, for example, the VA announced that it had awarded nearly $300 million to more than 300 community agencies to help homeless or at-risk veterans and their families.

Phoenix used more than $6.5 million in federal grants to fight homelessness this year, the city said in its statement. And the City Council provided an additional $1.8 million in general funds to help combat homelessness.

Nearly half of all homeless veterans live in three populous states — California, Florida and New York, according to the January report.

More than a fifth of the homeless populations in Kansas and Montana are veterans, while veterans make up the smallest share of the homeless population — 7 percent — in Minnesota and New Jersey.

Florida, Kentucky, Oregon, Illinois and Arizona saw the largest increases in homeless veterans from 2012 to 2013.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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