RICHMOND — Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) announced Wednesday that Virginia is the first state to meet the federal definition of effectively ending homelessness among military veterans.
“Folks, there is a reason why we are the greatest state in America. We are because we take care of our veterans,” McAuliffe said at a ceremony at a Richmond veterans memorial.
The federal homelessness designation means Virginia has no homeless veterans with the exception of those who have been offered housing but do not want it. The state must find a home for a veteran within 90 days and have more homes available than the number of veterans who have been identified as having no place to live.
Three cities — Las Vegas, and Syracuse and Schenectady in New York — also have met the criteria for claiming an end veteran homelessness in their cities, according to a White House statement. But Virginia is the first state to do so.
Julián Castro, secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, joined McAulliffe in Richmond for the Veterans Day announcement. Castro praised Virginia for achieving a first, even as he made light of McAuliffe’s reflexive boosterism. Castro noted that in an hour-long meeting before the ceremony, the governor called Virginia the “greatest” state in the nation “about 101 times.”
“Well today, you have a strong argument,” Castro said.
The announcement drew some bipartisan praise.
“It’s a great achievement for the governor, for Virginia, for the veterans especially,” said Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), who attended the announcement. “To move the needle to zero — effective homelessness — it’s a great day.”
But House Majority Leader Kirk Cox (R-Colonial Heights) released a statement that took issue with the announcement.
“Our brave men and women do not get to claim a functional victory on the battlefield and we shouldn’t either,” Cox said in a written statement. “Our battle isn’t won until every veteran has the education, health care, job and home they deserve. We look forward to working with Governor McAuliffe to continue these efforts.”
Cox’s statement noted that the House of Delegates has invested nearly $2 million since last year to combat homelessness among veterans and improve educational and workforce training programs.
McAuliffe, who has made job creation the centerpiece of his administration, often talks about the need to employ and educate veterans in Virginia, which is home to the world’s largest naval base and depends heavily on federal Department of Defense spending.
The effort is part of an Obama administration initiative aimed at educating veterans through in-state tuition rates, better oversight of deceptive college enrollment practices that prey upon veterans and the relaunch of Web site showing graduation and retention rates for veterans.
Last year, several Virginia cities joined a federal initiative to improve their systems for fighting homelessness. At the end of the 100-day program in February, Roanoke, Richmond, the Peninsula and South Hampton Roads, 462 veterans had homes or were in the process of moving into homes.
In January 2014, the state had 620 homeless veterans, according to an annual point-in-time count.