January 23, 2017

How veteran homelessness was slashed

Governing - Homelessness among military veterans has long been an endemic problem at the intersection of multiple public-health disciplines. Issues from substance abuse to housing prices to mental health care to re-training workers to disability access all contribute to veterans' homelessness, and no one government agency -- or level of government -- owns the problem.

In 2007, veterans made up one in every four homeless people in the United States. Since 2010, however, veterans' homelessness has fallen by fully half. Thousands of families a year now receive combined HUD-VA vouchers, and as of the beginning of this year the country was down to less than 40,000 homeless veterans. More than a dozen cities, from Boston to Las Cruces, N.M., to Mobile, Ala., have declared that they have ended chronic homelessness among veterans.

The story of how this happened carries important lessons for other cross-sector, intergovernmental efforts to solve some of America's most pressing problems. It illustrates that what is called the "whole of government" approach is more than a buzz phrase.


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