Phoenix Becomes the First City to End Veteran Homelessness

In the past month, Phoenix became the first city to end veteran homelessness. This has been a long standing goal, connected in part to President Obama’s initiative to end veteran homelessness by 2015:

Three years ago, city officials identified 222 homeless veterans living in Phoenix. Using both state and federal funds, the city had successfully housed the last veterans who were living without homes. They did so through an innovative idea known as “Housing First” — providing somewhere to live for homeless individuals without first requiring that they be sober or drug-free. The thinking goes that homeless individuals with drug or alcohol problems will be far more capable to address these issues if they first have a stable place to live. Housing First works best when it’s coupled, as it was in Phoenix, with supportive services like job training and health care.

While President Obama’s initiative has made progress, they still have a long way to go this year to accomplish their goal:

Since 2010, veteran homelessness has declined by 24 percent nationally, according to the Department of Veterans Affairs. But a single-night count from January suggests that there are still somewhere around 57,849 homeless veterans nationwide.

Phoenix was in a ‘friendly competition’ with Salt Lake City, UT, who is close behind:

Salt Lake City, Utah, is the second city in the United States to end chronic homelessness amongst military veterans, Mayor Ralph Becker said on Sunday’s Melissa Harris-Perry. The first was Phoenix, Ariz., which declared an end to the issue on Dec.18.

Their achievement shows how the right plan can achieve results in future initiatives:

Salt Lake City has focused first on homeless veterans, but is committed to working to reduce the greater homeless population in the city. The December 2013 United States Conference of Mayors Hunger and Homelessness Survey reported that the number homeless families in Salt Lake City decreased by 20% and homeless individuals by 10% last year.

Columbia University professor Dorian Warren suggested to Harris-Perry that the achievement by Phoenix and Salt Lake City could reach beyond just the issue of homelessness. “This is a model for solving intractable social problems,” Warren said on Sunday’s show. “They made a commitment, they lined up resources, and guess what: government actually works.”

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