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Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs

Remarks by Acting Secretary Sloan Gibson

Mayors' Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness
Washington D.C.
April 30, 2014

Ending Veteran homelessness is one of VA's three Agency Priority Goals.

I would be remiss this morning if I didn't mention one of our other goals: improving Veteran access to VA care and services. As the President has directed, we are moving immediately to get Veterans off of wait lists and into clinics, and we're taking action to fix the systemic problems that allowed these unacceptable waits to occur.

VA has demonstrated it can tackle and solve big problems: We've cut the claims backlog in half, and we're on our way to ending Veterans homelessness by the end of 2015.

But we can't do it alone. It's a challenge that requires close collaboration among Federal, State, local governments, and community groups. VA and HUD may have resources, but we depend on over 4,000 partners to extend services to homeless Veterans.

Last year, thanks to those partners, more than 45,000 Veterans and family members were housed using HUD-VASH vouchers; more than 60,000 were saved from eviction thanks to VA's Supportive Services for Veteran Families; and more than 45,000 Veterans found temporary housing through VA's Grant & Per Diem programall thanks to collaborative public and private efforts across the country.

We have a winning strategy. It's the "Housing First" approach: Get Veterans into permanent housing, then meet their clinical and other needs. The result is, we're not just getting Veterans off the streets; we are also healing minds and bodies and making better use of resources, so we can help even more Veterans. How?

  • Emergency room visitsdown 27 percent
  • Inpatient hospitalizationsdown 33 percent
  • Healthcare costsdown 32 percent

"Housing First" works best when we're working closely togethercities, counties, community groups, and local VA health facilities. That's why we need local leadershipleaders on the ground in every cityto take charge, to marshal the available resources, and to forge the necessary connections among the many partners it takes to make the strategy work.

We've proven we can reduce Veterans homelessness. Now it's time to end it.

My thanks to the First Lady for supporting this effort and so many other efforts to help Veterans and their families.

And thanks to all of you taking up this challenge. We're depending on you; Veterans are depending on you.

Now, it's my pleasure to introduce our leading federal partner, this year's chair of the Interagency Council on Homelessness, HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan.