After almost a decade of effort, Arlington County has effectively ended homelessness for military veterans, officials said Thursday, part of a national effort to house those who have no place to live.
Arlington is the second jurisdiction in the country to show it has no more homeless veterans than it can house in any given month, said Adam Gibbs, spokesman for Community Solutions. The D.C.-based nonprofit group is the organizer of the national effort to end homelessness, which the Obama administration launched in 2010. Seventy-five communities are participating.
The first community certified as having ended veteran homelessness was Rockford, Ill., Gibbs said, adding that Maryland’s Montgomery County will be formally certified next week.
Last year, on a parallel track, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recognized Virginia as the first state to meet slightly different federal criteria for ending homelessness among veterans.
Officials said every homeless veteran in the state had a place to live, except for those who had been offered housing but didn’t want it. As of mid-December, the federal government recognized 15 jurisdictions meeting that criteria, which included the cities of Houston, Las Vegas and New Orleans.
In Arlington, homes were found for at least 22 veterans between January 2015 and November 2015, officials said. The December numbers have not been finalized, officials said. The Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless said that jurisdiction found housing for more than 50 veterans and their families in 2015, many of them in the fall.
Arlington launched a 10-year plan to end homelessness in 2008. That effort is part of the movement known as “Housing First,” which advocates taking care of people’s biggest immediate need — shelter — before trying to address issues that led them to live on the street.
The county created small, interagency teams to track each homeless person within its borders, identify the services they could receive, and make sure that the person was safe and following steps to get housing.
The next step in Arlington, officials say, is to house everyone who is considered chronically homeless by the end of 2016 — those who have been without housing for a year or more, have had at least four incidents of homelessness in the past three years or who have a disability.
“We are down to the people who are really hard to serve,” said David Leibson, co-chair of Arlington’s 10-year plan. “I wish I could guarantee it, but we are optimistic it can be done.”