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Michelle Obama: Now is the time to end homelessness, starting with veterans

First lady Michelle Obama applauds as she speaks at the 2014 National Conference on Ending Homelessness, part of the Joining Forces initiative, Thursday, July 31, 2014, in Washington. (AP Photo/Cliff Owen)

First lady Michelle Obama on Thursday offered one possible way to end homelessness in the United States: Start by housing all veterans.

She delivered the thought during remarks at the National Conference on Ending Homelessness. She and Vice President Biden’s wife Jill Biden have been working together with 182 communities to commit to end veterans’ homelessness by the end of 2015.

Some 58,000 veterans remain homeless, “a stain on the soul of our nation,” Obama said. Still, she said she remained confident that organizations and communities would be able to meet the goal. Cities, such as Salt Lake City and Phoenix, have already effectively housed all their veterans. New Orleans is also on track to ending veterans’ homelessness in the next six months, she said.

Obama added the need to end homelessness among those who fought for the country went beyond the moral obligation toward those who had served.

“Ending homelessness [among veterans] is a crucial first step, a proof point to show that we can end homelessness for everyone in this country. because time and time again, we’ve seen how broader social change has been triggered by the military,” she said.

Among her examples: School lunch programs were created when leaders realized too many children were too malnourished to be drafted, and the integration of the military helped lead to integration throughout the country.

The remarks come as many cities across the country, including the District, have struggled with stemming an increase in homelessness  – particularly amongst families. The first lady joined a chorus of advocates and experts who have supported  a model known as “housing first,” which subsidizes apartments for the homeless while providing support services until they can get back on their feet.

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