Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto is one of a group of more than 75 Mayors and county officials who’ve signed on to a nation-wide plan to end homelessness among those who’ve served in the military. First Lady Michelle Obama this week kicked off the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.
“It really is a call to mayors and other elected officials to focus their attention on veterans who are homeless in our communities,” said Jane Vincent, regional administrator for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) in Philadelphia.
As of last count in January there were 97 homeless veterans in the Pittsburgh area, 78 living in emergency shelters and 19 living unsheltered, according to a release from Peduto’s office.
“One veteran, one person who has served our country who is living on the streets is appalling and it just should not be,” said Vincent.
In a statement last month, Peduto said “Veteran homelessness is not an intractable social problem that can’t be solved. By focusing our resources and renewing our communities’ commitment to this issue, we can end veterans homelessness in our city and our country. I’m proud to join Mayors across the country as we work toward the important goal of honoring the service of our veterans by making sure all of them have a home to call their own.”
It’s not a new issue; veteran homelessness has been a focus of efforts across the nation for several years. The Obama administration says veteran homelessness has been reduced by 24 percent since 2010; this latest effort aims to take the rate down to zero by 2015. The Mayors Challenge will include Pittsburgh and other communities coming together to discuss best practices, such as pre-inspecting units for veteran housing programs.
“So that those units are already inspected and ready to go when we identify a veteran who’s eligible, we can reduce the wait time for veterans from months and months down to a matter of days,” said Vincent, “things like that are already working.”
Pittsburgh will work with HUD, the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness and the National League of Cities as well as state, regional and local agencies.
“The City of Pittsburgh was more than willing to take up the challenge and so we’re going to be working with the city to identify ways that we can do more or take what we have and do it better,” said Vincent.
Resources for the mayors include helping removing barriers, such as housing prerequisites, to help veterans obtain permanent housing as quickly as possible; Increasing early detection and access to preventive services for at-risk veterans so they can remain stably housed; coordinating outreach efforts; and prioritizing the most vulnerable veterans, such as those experiencing chronic homelessness.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski are also part of the initiative.