At White House, Mayors Strategize on Efforts to End Veteran Homelessness
On January 23, the White House hosted over 240 mayors during the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) Winter Meeting. During the event, mayors took part in a breakout session with Administration officials including Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, Assistant to the President & Deputy Chief of Staff for Implementation Kristie Canegallo, Special Assistant to the President Luke Tate, and USICH Interim Executive Director Matthew Doherty, to discuss ensuring access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans and ending Veteran homelessness. The breakout session also provided an opportunity for New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to discuss best practices on how mayors can accomplish the goal of ending Veteran homelessness. Through the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness, local leaders across the country are ending Veteran homelessness in their communities. Mayor Landrieu was one of the first Mayors to sign on to the Mayors Challenge and on January 7, 2015, New Orleans became the first major U.S. city to achieve the goal.
Mayor Landrieu explained to his fellow mayors that, “if the resources are there, if the right organization is in place, and if your team is committed you can get the job done.” He encouraged mayors to first identify who needs to be in the room among public and private partners and discussed putting a process in place to increase accountability in the city and with other partners. New Orleans adopted an “all hands on deck” approach, bringing together the local Continuum of Care (CoC) agency, the VA health center, and area public housing authorities, organizations and agencies that are critical in strengthening local homelessness assistance programs.
Mayor Landrieu went on to explain that once New Orleans could identify veterans experiencing homelessness, they could assess their mental and physical needs and provide them with housing and services. Using volunteers to conduct monthly counts, New Orleans created a master list of Veterans known to be experiencing homelessness in the community. New Orleans also implemented a partnership with active duty military service members to participate in ongoing street outreach efforts and to help Veterans move into their new homes. Lastly, the Mayor emphasized the importance of finding as many housing units as possible to reach the goal. New Orleans effectively utilized Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) and HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) resources to supply rental subsidies and services. They also leveraged additional housing resources from the Housing Authority of New Orleans and the CoC prioritized use of its housing portfolio. Mayor Landrieu stressed that all housing providers came to the table offering housing resources for Veterans.
Mayor Landrieu was followed by Matthew Doherty, who discussed how cities can utilize interagency resources to eliminate Veteran’s homelessness. Matthew urged mayors to act as conveners, bringing parties together in order to generate broader political will and coordination. Matthew and Kristie Canegallo also discussed with mayors the game-changing opportunity the Affordable Care Act brings to local efforts to end homelessness, including providing needed services and support to Veterans experiencing homelessness who are not eligible for VA health care. The Affordable Care Act serves to make health insurance more accessible and affordable, ensure coverage supports people as they exit homelessness, and focuses health care delivery on improving health outcomes. Until February 15, Americans across the country can sign up for a plan at HealthCare.gov and join the 8 million Americans who got covered last year.
Mary Owens is a Program Assistant at USICH where she helps to coordinate Federal policy efforts and community partnerships. She is an attorney with a focus on domestic policy and government procurement.