Rockford was the first city in America to meet First Lady Michelle Obama’s challenge to end homelessness among vets in their cities last year. Now for the second year in a row, Rockford has done it again and eliminated homeless among its veterans according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and Department of Veteran Affairs.
Lawrence Morrissey, the Mayor of Rockford, joins the show to talk about his city’s program to end homelessness among veterans in Rockford.
Launched by Michelle Obama, “The Mayors Challenge” called upon mayors and other state and local leaders across the country to implement strategies necessary to end homelessness among all veterans.
There are more than 39,000 homeless vets in the US on an given night. The Illinois number hovers around 1000-1300. The largest numbers are in warm weather states like California, Texas and Florida.
The majority are single; live in urban areas; and suffer from mental illness, alcohol and/or substance abuse, or co-occurring disorders. About 11% of the adult homeless population are veterans. Roughly 45% of all homeless veterans are African American or Hispanic, despite only accounting for 10.4% and 3.4% of the U.S. veteran population, respectively.
Veterans have historically been at greater risk of experiencing homelessness than other U.S. adults. The reasons for this are not all related to military service, however combat exposure, wartime trauma, and post‐traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can lead to further social isolation and psychiatric hospitalization, which are primary risk factors for homelessness.
Rockford eliminated homeless among the city’s veteran population at a time when the rate of veteran homelessness decreased just slightly nationwide in 2016. Currently, there are an estimated 39,471 homeless veterans on any given night in the United States according to the – the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) estimates.
How they did it:
-Made homeless vets a priority, number one.
-Also, provided and organized close coordination between government agencies, non profits, veterans groups, mental health providers, drug and alcohol treatment centers, churches, job training centers, local businesses and landlords. The resources to help vets are available in most communities but local governments must connect the dots and make sure they are working together.
-Finally, creating a database that tracks every vet in the Rockford area to make sure they are okay or in need of services. This is crucial. Too often homeless vets are off the radar screen