Stakeholders discuss Virginia Action Plan to end homelessness

June 17, 2014

By Rachael Sharp

The Virginia Veteran Summit was held on June 9 to discuss the Virginia Action Plan to End Veteran Homelessness. The program is in line with the 2010 federal strategic plan to end homelessness, Opening Doors, which made it a federal goal to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.

The Obama administration partnered with mayors, local officials and state governors, including Governor Terry McAuliffe, to bring organizations from all levels of government together with nonprofits to coordinate efforts to end veteran homelessness across the country.     This movement is significant in Virginia, which has the fastest growing veteran population in the country and was home to approximately 2,000 distinct homeless veterans in 2013.

Virginia’s plan to end veteran homelessness follows the example of two localities that have been successful in this endeavor, Phoenix and Salt Lake City. These localities have ended veteran homelessness by focusing on reaching “functional zero,” which emphasizes identifying and housing chronically homeless veterans through preventative supportive housing. It also requires building a system that responds quickly to crises and places veterans in housing of their own as soon as possible, or a “housing first” approach.

In order to reach functional zero in Virginia, the Action Plan lays out five strategies:

• Increase the number of permanent supportive housing units in the Commonwealth
• Increase the flexibility of funding to prevent and end homelessness and support rapid re-housing for individuals and families
• Develop a statewide data collection process that provides accurate and reliable data to effectively address homelessness statewide
• Increase access to mental health and substance abuse treatment
• Evaluate, develop and ensure implementation of statewide pre-discharge policies for the foster care system, mental health facilities and correctional facilities

Various speakers at the summit emphasized that one of the most pressing needs in order to accomplish the goal of ending veteran homelessness is cooperation among all critical stakeholders, including local governments. Coordination and sharing of information is essential to efficiently identifying needs and appropriating resources where they are needed. The key theme is increasing speed and access to help, especially to long-term housing and subsidies.

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