Finding homes for all homeless veterans in Delaware

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    ( via ShutterStock, graph image via DSHA)

    With just eight days left in the year, ending homelessness among Delaware veterans appears to be within reach.

    The Delaware State Housing Authority released an update Wednesday morning. The news release said all but a handful of homeless veterans are now off the streets.

    According to DSHA, since January 29, 282 homeless veterans were identified in Delaware. Out of those, 278 are now off the streets with 169 in permanent housing and 109 placed in temporary housing; only four remain unsheltered.

    In May, Gov. Jack Markell, D-Delaware, pledged to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. The statewide initiative was part of a national challenge to end homelessness among all Americans by 2020.

    DSHA, the Delaware Dept. of Health and Social Services and veterans affairs groups are among the many local and federal partners.

    “The new norm”

    For seven years, honorably discharged U.S. Army veteran Henry Smith had nowhere to call home. He lived in rooming houses off and on until last month when the Wilmington VA Medical Center referred him to Connections’ VA-funded Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program.

    SSVF provides assistance to help veterans secure housing stability.

    Smith entered the program on Nov. 5th and was housed on Dec. 3rd.

    “After being homeless for seven years, I thought housing was impossible,” Smith said. “My apartment is quiet, clean, and well-kept. Connections worked hard to establish a rapport with the landlord, and I hope more vets get the opportunity to be housed.”

    The national and Delaware challenge is not only about housing veterans, but also putting systems in place to ensure that veterans who become homeless in the future don’t fall through the cracks.

    “With the hard work of everyone involved in this effort, we are showing that stories like Henry Smith’s can represent the new norm,” Markell said. “We can ensure homeless veterans are quickly and effectively connected to services and permanent housing assistance, while service providers are committed to help ensure their success and Delaware landlords are willing to give veterans a hand up.”

    DSHA said such system changes are already underway in Delaware, to ensure the commitment to end veteran homelessness is not just temporary but permanent.

    Progress on where the statewide challenge stands will be measured with the 2016 Point in Time count in late January 2016, a statewide outreach and census event to identify individuals who are homeless on a given night.

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