AUSTIN (KXAN) — When Mayor Steve Adler took office, one of his biggest projects was to end veteran homelessness in Austin. In 2015, Adler took the challenge of finding homes for about 200 homeless veterans.
On Friday, Adler along with the Department of Veteran Affairs, and the Housing and Urban Development declared that Austin has “effectively” ended veteran homelessness. Julián Castro, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, joined Adler Friday to say he is confident Austin has created systems and programs to help homeless veterans get back on their feet and find a place to live.
“We have a responsibility to ensure that once our veterans have served their nation, they have a safe, stable place to call home. Austin today has proven that ending veteran homelessness isn’t just aspirational – it’s achievable. I’m so proud to congratulate the city and its partners on working tirelessly to give our veterans a dignified home, setting an example for communities across the nation,” said Castro in a statement.
The mission to house veterans actually started in 2014 with then-Mayor Lee Leffingwell, who accepted the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness in 2014 that was issued by First Lady Michelle Obama. Since then, a total of 682 veterans have been placed in permanent housing, according to the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition.
The declaration doesn’t mean there aren’t veterans still living on the streets. Wesley Laslie is without a home and he says one of his friends, who is also homeless, is a veteran.
“See if we can get him off here. You know, get off the streets,” said Laslie.
The U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness defines functional zero as:
- No chronically homeless veterans or veterans are in the process of being housed in 90 days
- Veterans who don’t want to be housed must have resources in place if they choose to find housing
- On average, homeless veterans are housed within 90 days of being identified
- Number of veterans being housed is greater than the number becoming homeless (monthly)
- Number of veterans entering in transitional housing is less than the number becoming homeless (monthly)
“We don’t have yet a magic bullet to prevent homelessness,” said Ann Howard, executive director of the Ending Community Homelessness Coalition. “What we do know is that as a community we need to be able to respond to that homelessness and we also need to do everything we can to make sure it is very rare that a veteran is homeless.”
Adler said the community’s next goal is to end chronic homelessness by 2017. He defines chronic homelessness as someone who hasn’t had a home for a minimum of one year or four times in the past three years.