Mayor Walsh announces update on plan to house homeless veterans

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BOSTON — Following up on his commitment to end veterans homelessness by the end of 2015, Mayor Martin J. Walsh announced Thursday that 367 homeless veterans have been housed since his Administration launched the program in July 2014.

“No veteran should have to sleep on the street, and Boston is going to change that,” said Mayor Walsh. “I’m proud that the City of Boston is housing veterans at a rate of approximately one per day, and I look forward to announcing the functional end of veterans homelessness by the end of the year.”

As part of Mayor Walsh’s initiative “Boston Homes for the Brave,” the City’s Departments of Veteran Services and Neighborhood Development held a meeting Thursday for brokers and landlords to share information on how they can support homeless veterans. Another meeting will be held at Brighton Marine Health Center, Inc. on Thursday, Aug. 27 at 10 a.m. Landlords and property owners who are interested in attending can RSVP by contacting: [email protected] or call 617-562-5223.

“Boston Homes for the Brave” is a part of the federal Mayors Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness, which was announced by First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House in 2014. The First Lady issued a call to mayors across the Nation to make a commitment to ending veterans’ homelessness in their cities by 2015. When it was announced, Mayor Walsh challenged the Boston real estate community and business leaders to step up to the plate to help veterans find a safe place to call home by registering their units on a new website:

In addition to helping veterans leave shelter and find housing, the City, working with its partners in the provider and advocacy community, has seen a significant decrease in the length of time that veterans remain in homeless shelters. Seventy percent of all homeless veterans who have used the system leave shelter within six months and of those, 45 percent leave in less than two months. A year ago, only 50 percent of homeless veterans were able to leave in less than six months. Among veterans who became homeless since the Mayor announced the initiative, the average length of stay in shelter had dropped even further to only 44 days.

Defining an end to homelessness is challenging. As veterans are housed, other veterans become homeless and enter the system for the first time. To that end, the City and its partners have developed a goal entitled “functional zero,” to be reached by the end of 2015. The definition of functional zero is that:

— No veteran is forced to sleep on the street

— When a veteran becomes homeless it will be rare and brief

—All currently homeless veterans will be either housed or on a pathway to stable housing by the end of 2015

This initiative involves all Boston agencies that work with homeless veterans, including the US Department of Veterans Affairs, the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services, the City of Boston Office of Veterans’ Services, the Boston Public Health Commission, Boston’s Department of Neighborhood Development, the New England Center for Homeless Veterans, Pine Street Inn, Children’s Services of Roxbury and the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance.

“The New England Center for Homeless Veterans is honored to be part of Mayor Walsh’s bold and transformational challenge to eliminate homelessness among veterans by the end of this year,” said C. Andrew McCawley, President and Chief Executive Officer of the New England Center for Homeless Veterans. “The Mayor’s focused leadership on this issue has inspired a comprehensive system redesign that directs the efforts of the City’s entire community of providers to the goal of ending veteran homelessness. We are confident this will happen, and that every veteran in Boston will be supported to achieve the success they deserve.”

In parallel to the “Homes for the Brave” initiative, the City of Boston has been supporting permanent housing efforts for homeless veterans, including helping fund a $31 million upgrade to the New England Center for Homeless Veterans, which expands quality housing for homeless veterans through the creation of creating 35 new efficiency apartments and the moderate renovation of 59 existing units. In addition, South Boston’s Patriot Homes project will redevelop the former City of Boston D6 police station into 24 affordable apartments with a preference for veterans, and the planned Brighton Marine development is slated to contain mixed income housing, half of which will be set aside for veterans and their families.

In June, Mayor Walsh released “An Action Plan to End Veteran and Chronic Homelessness In Boston: 2015 – 2018,” which outlines the City’s strategies to transform Boston’s homeless response system in order to end veterans homelessness by 2015 and chronic homelessness by 2018.