By Caitlin Bayer, Priority Projects Coordinator, THN
As of today, 60 communities across 32 states have effectively ended veteran homelessness. The communities range from urban to rural, from small towns to entire states. The evidence is overwhelming: effectively ending veteran homelessness is possible for every community across the nation.
The question is no longer “Can we end veteran homelessness?” but “What is stopping us from ending veteran homelessness?” We have the tools. We know what it takes. The political will is there. The time is ripe for action. So what’s holding us back?
In the nearly 3 years that I’ve worked with communities to end veteran homelessness in the TX BoS CoC, I’ve heard 3 main reasons: “We don’t have enough resources,” “We don’t know how,” and “We’re not ready.”
“We don’t have enough resources”
To the first reason, the answer is unfortunate but simple: No one has enough resources to meet demand. No agency has enough staff. No community has enough affordable housing. A recent study shows that in only 12 counties in the entire nation is a one-bedroom apartment affordable for households that earn the minimum wage.
However, I don’t see a lack of resources as a reason to give up. I see it as an opportunity for resourcefulness, curiosity, and creativity. How can we do the best we can do with what we have? How far can we get our resources to reach? Can we surprise ourselves with what is possible when we look at the same resources in a different way?
“We don’t know how”
I couldn’t disagree more. We have never had more tools, research, and information on what works to end veteran homelessness than we do right now. Since the federal strategic plan for preventing and ending homelessness, Opening Doors, declared ending Veteran homelessness as a national goal, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the National Alliance to End Homelessness (NAEH), Community Solutions, Vets@Home, and dozens of other agencies have spent countless hours researching and practicing what it takes.
Through their hard work, they have developed tools widely considered to be essential in the efforts to end Veteran homelessness, including By-Name Lists, tools for working hand-in-hand with VA and key stakeholders, and the USICH Criteria and Benchmarks. And there are things that we know have worked for a while now, like Housing First and Coordinated Entry. While it’s true that the path to making veteran homelessness rare, brief, and nonrecurring looks different from community to community, the tools are there for us if we’re willing to use them.
“We’re not ready”
To address the last concern, you are in luck. I have devised a simple quiz for you to take to figure out if you are ready to end veteran homelessness:
1) Are there veterans experiencing homelessness in your community?
2) Do you want to do something about it?
If you answered “yes” to both questions, you’re ready. And THN is ready to help you make it happen.
No one expects a single leader within a community to end veteran homelessness on their own. It will take the efforts of your entire community, and maybe even some extra help. That’s why THN offers coaching, leadership development, custom tools, informational resources, data assistance, training, education, advocacy, and much more.
Reach out to Caitlin Bayer, Priority Projects Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org to see how THN can help develop you into the leader that rallied your community to effectively end Veteran homelessness.