Ending veteran homelessness in Delaware [video]

 (AP Photo/Steven Senne)

(AP Photo/Steven Senne)

Gov. Jack Markell unveiled a plan to find homes for all homeless veterans in Delaware by the end of this year. 

Markell officially launched the statewide effort at the American Legion Post #2 in Dover this morning.

“Nothing should disturb us more than the idea of veterans being homeless,” Markell said. “On any given night there are a hundred veterans who are homeless and those are the veterans that we can actually reach to count. We know that there are more.”

According to statistics, Markell said an estimated 280 veterans will experience homelessness in Delaware over the course of 2015.

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“It is unconscionable that many young people who have come back from Iraq, and Afghanistan and previous conflicts are homeless. These men and women have sacrificed much for their country and our state and now they need help,” said Major General Frank Vavala, adjutant general of the Delaware National Guard.

Last year, U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development, U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs and the National League of Cities called on a growing number of mayors, governors and county officials to make the commitment.

In January, Delaware State Housing Authority and the Dept. of Health and Social Services were tasked with developing Delaware’s plan presented during today’s news conference. In collaboration with federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and veterans service agencies, the report, released today, details how the state can achieve its goal.

Actions include: identifying veterans who are currently homeless or at a high risk of homelessness; improving connections and coordination between veteran-specific and mainstream resources for homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing; and, creating 20 rental assistance vouchers dedicated to veterans through the State Rental Assistance Program, SRAP, which provides integrated community housing with supportive services.

“Every Veteran should have the opportunity and support to live a full, healthy life in our state,” said DSHA Director Anas Ben Addi. “In this plan, we identify strategies to both house veterans who are homeless in Delaware now, and to ensure that veterans who may face homelessness in the future are connected to the resources they need quickly and effectively.”

“While working with the Housing Authority to identify veterans in need and to provide them with homes, we also are prepared to offer wrap-around social services to these men and women who have served our country,” said DHSS Secretary Landgraf. “For veterans in need, a home is the foundation that will help to re-establish them in the community. The social services that DHSS can connect these veterans to will provide further stability.”

Monday’s announcement featured the story of U.S. Army veteran Gary Dawkins. He became homeless due to the economy and an unstable employment history. Dawkins found shelter at the Home of the Brave, a veterans homeless shelter in Milford. A model resident, Dawkins earned his commercial driver’s license and has helped other down-and-out residents find their way. After being at the HOB shelter for approximately 20 months, Dawkins eventually became eligible for housing through the DSHA Public Housing program for seniors.

“My story is a prime example of how many resources coming together can bring a veteran from homelessness to stable housing,” said Dawkins. “I am glad to see Delaware committing to this challenge and to housing veterans who are homeless.”

The veterans challenge is part of a federal plan to end all homelessness called, “Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness,” launched in 2010.

“As a nation, we are on track to end homelessness among veterans by the end of this calendar year, to end chronic homelessness by 2017 and to end homelessness among youth and families by 2020,” said HUD Regional Administrator Jane Vincent.

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