Thursday, February 18, 2016
Major Milestone Achieved in State’s Unprecedented Housing Efforts
(HARTFORD, CT) - Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced that the federal government has certified Connecticut as having effectively ended homelessness among veterans. Just the second state in the nation to accomplish the milestone, Connecticut has implemented a comprehensive, unprecedented system to target homelessness among veterans.
Ending homelessness among veterans has been a major goal of Governor Malloy, who in 2014 signed up Connecticut as one of the first states to join a national initiative that sought to secure commitments from communities across the country to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. This federal certification comes after Governor Malloy and U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary MacDonald announced last fall that Connecticut had become the first state in the country to end chronic homelessness among veterans.
"This milestone is a major one - we have been a national leader on so many issues and today is yet another reflection. We have a responsibility to take care of our veterans, to ensure that veterans have access to housing, quality health care, education, and career opportunities. We're proud to have achieved this ambitious goal," Governor Malloy said. "Just a few years ago, there was no Department of Housing in Connecticut. Today, we're being recognized for reaching the high goals that we've set. We've built the infrastructure, through a network of partnerships and investments, to the point at which our housing and supports delivers a home to every veteran in our state. I am incredibly proud of our federal and state agencies, our nonprofits, and our community providers on the frontlines. But we will not stop here - we will keep working to end chronic homelessness in Connecticut by the end of this year."
In a letter to the Governor, First Lady Michelle Obama, who has spearheaded the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, congratulated the State of Connecticut on the accomplishment.
"As we discussed at the President's State of the Union Address, I want to thank you and the people of Connecticut for your determined efforts on behalf of our military families," the First Lady wrote. "I am so proud of your state's commitment and resolve to reach this milestone, and I am grateful for all you have done for America's heroes."
The designation comes after an extensive review by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), in coordination with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs (VA).
Last August, Connecticut made history when it became the first state in the nation certified by the group as having eliminated chronic homelessness among veterans. Chronic homelessness is defined as an individual with a disability who has been homeless for a period of at least one year or has had three or more episodes of homelessness that total one year. Today's announcement means the state has effectively eliminated homelessness among all veterans.
Through a partnership of local, state, and federal organizations, Connecticut has created a system that works to prevent homelessness among veterans and ensures that when there is a new episode of homelessness, it is brief and non-recurring.
"Taking care of our veterans - ensuring they have safe housing, access to healthcare, jobs, and the programs and services they need is one small measure of our gratitude for all that they've done for us," Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman said. "Connecticut's national leadership on veteran homelessness is commendable, but most importantly, it means the men and women who have bravely served our country can more easily re-integrate into civilian life."
"Ensuring every veteran has a safe, stable place to call home is a responsibility we all share. The State of Connecticut and its partners have shown incredible leadership in the nationwide effort to end veteran homelessness, and today have every reason to celebrate this remarkable achievement," U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro said. "Connecticut's progress should serve as a model for communities nationwide that are working not just to reduce veteran homelessness, but to end it for good."
"The State of Connecticut responded with urgency to the important national priority of ending Veteran homelessness, becoming the second state in the nation to achieve the goal," U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald said. "The success in achieving the goal in Connecticut and in other communities is built on partnerships formed among state and local governments, federal agencies, the business sector, faith-based organizations, and others. I am extremely proud of the vital role VA plays in providing the necessary services to help Veterans get back on their feet and wish to congratulate the State of Connecticut on this achievement. Sustaining our shared gains requires continued vigilance to reach and serve the Veterans who may need our help in the future."
"There is so much that other states can learn from Connecticut's remarkable achievement, which adds significantly to our growing proof that we can end homelessness in this country," Matthew Doherty, Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, said. "If we know that we can end homelessness for Veterans, then we know that we must end homelessness for every individual, for every family, for every child, for every young person, for everyone."
Even with these strengthened homeless prevention services, this designation does not mean a veteran in Connecticut will never again experience an episode of homelessness. Instead, it means that when a veteran enters an episode of homelessness, the state has the capacity and sustainable systems in place to quickly find and connect this veteran to the assistance needed for him or her to achieve stable, permanent housing. The state's network of partners are continually identifying veterans who are experiencing homelessness, rapidly providing them with interim housing when necessary, and placing them into permanent housing with the appropriate support services within 90 days.
Connecticut has achieved this goal through the coordinated leadership of the Reaching Home Campaign's Veterans Workgroup, a collaboration among key stakeholders around the state, which includes VA Connecticut Healthcare System (VACT), the Connecticut Department of Housing (DOH), the Connecticut Veterans Project (CTVP), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Hartford Field Office (HUD), Connecticut's Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grantees, the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH), the Connecticut Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA), the Partnership for Strong Communities (PSC), the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC), and the Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL) - all working together with other local community providers.
"Ending veteran homelessness is something to be proud of and this was made possible by the dedicated individuals on the ground working hard each and every day," Connecticut Department of Housing Commissioner Evonne M. Klein said. "These folks identify veterans and connect them to housing and the critical support services they need. We have a powerful network of advocates and providers in Connecticut, and it's just one of the many reasons why we are national leaders in our efforts to prevent and end homelessness. Other states look to Connecticut as a role model and it's important that we recognize everyone who came together to make this vision a reality."
"Connecticut has a long history of 'Serving Those Who Served,' dating back to 1864 when the doors to the first Veterans home opened in Darien," Connecticut Department of Veterans' Affairs Commissioner Sean M. Connolly said. "Today's announcement follows in that same tradition of commitment to our Service women and men through the continued determination of our state leadership putting Veterans first and the vital collaborative relationships between other state and federal entities. This is an incredible victory for Connecticut Veterans."
This accomplishment is the result of over two years of successful collaboration to enhance Connecticut's homelessness response system for veterans. Through vastly improved data collection and analysis, streamlined referral protocols, coordinated outreach, a new interim housing system, reformed housing assistance programming, bi-weekly reporting, and targeted resources, Connecticut has reinvented its system for assisting veterans who experience homelessness. These procedures have resulted in veterans having a permanent home within 90 days, with a safe place to stay in the interim. The greatest asset to this effort was the dedicated front-line staff who made this new system a reality with their hard work to rapidly connect with veterans and put them on the path to housing.
"This is a powerful example of how local, state, and federal leaders can come together to solve complex problems. Governor Malloy's leadership and the state's investments have been the keystone to our success," Alicia Woodsby, Executive Director of the Partnership for Strong Communities, said. "Connecticut has created a system to end homelessness among Veterans that will need to be managed and maintained. It provides a road map to solve homelessness for all who experience it in our state."
"Three years ago, the leading stakeholders around this issue came together out of a shared belief that every veteran in our state deserves stable housing. Together, we set an ambitious goal, and today we take great pleasure in celebrating its achievement," Greg Behrman, Founder and Director of the Connecticut Veterans Project, said. "We arrived here through a tremendous spirit of cooperation among a wide range of stakeholders and a shared commitment to do the right thing for those who were willing to serve all of us. Today, the system in Connecticut is optimized in unprecedented ways to ensure an adequate measure of support for veterans who need it. It will require continued leadership, focus, resources, and commitment to ensure that the progress registered proves sustainable over many years to come - a standard that our state's veterans deserve and that must drive this important work going forward."
"This accomplishment is a milestone - not the finish line - reflecting the dedication of many Connecticut advocates, agencies and officials," U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal said. "I remain cautiously optimistic about the progress achieved in Connecticut and in other parts of the country. While we should celebrate this remarkable achievement, we must also recommit and reinforce our efforts to expand current VA programs to provide permanent housing solutions to vulnerable veterans and provide VA and community partners with the flexibility they need to adapt to changing needs among homeless veterans and maximize federal resources."
"Today's announcement is a big win for Connecticut's veteran community. We've come a long way since 2009, when I took VA officials to Waterbury to show them that veterans were living under bridges and in the woods," U.S. Senator Chris Murphy said. "Through state and federal partnerships, we've closed healthcare gaps, expanded access to training and education, and increased employment opportunities among veterans all across our state. I've always said that one homeless veteran is one too many, and I'm proud that Connecticut is among the first in the nation to make that goal a reality. I will continue working hard to make sure every one of the 22 million brave veterans across the country - including the 200,000 here in Connecticut - receives the care and services they deserve."
"Ending veteran homelessness is a tremendous victory, and I commend Governor Malloy for his tireless devotion to the men and women who have served our country with honor and courage," CongressmanJohn Larson (CT-1) said. "It is our moral responsibility to ensure our veterans have the care and support they need. After facing countless perils during their service, no veteran should face the perils of living on the street. Today, I am proud to say we in Connecticut are upholding that duty and setting an example for the rest of the country."
"This is a very proud moment for Connecticut to be designated as the second state to officially end veteran homelessness," Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-2) said. "We have a sacred obligation to ensure that no veteran returning from serving his or her nation is allowed to go without a decent place to call home. Governor Malloy and the State of Connecticut deserve high praise for earning this designation for our state. I will continue my efforts to support local projects like the Chrysalis Center in Vernon, and American Legion Veterans Housing in Jewett City which are providing options for eastern Connecticut veterans struggling to get back on their feet."
"Connecticut has worked extremely hard to ensure that every veteran in the state has housing and I thank Governor Malloy and the state Department of Veterans' Affairs for making ending veterans homelessness a priority," Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (CT-3) said. "After serving our nation in the military, no veteran should ever have to worry about the most basic of needs, including health care and housing. Access to safe, secure housing is one of the most significant steps we can make in the lives of veterans and it opens opportunities for employment and treatment of health conditions. Although we have made incredible strides in how we help our veterans, there is still much work to be done and we will continue to fight for their care."
"This is an incredible accomplishment. For those who have put their lives on the line for our country, the least we can do is make sure they have a place to rest their heads at night," Congressman Jim Himes (CT-4) said. "This is the very beginning of a long road we have to go down to fulfill our obligations to our veterans, but today it makes me very proud to represent the people of Connecticut."
"When Americans put their lives on the line in service to our country, the very least we can do is ensure they have a place to live when they return home," Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty (CT-5) said. "I'm very proud to represent a state that has taken such important steps to end veteran homelessness. But there is still a great deal of work left to do to make sure every veteran has the quality health care and job opportunities they need to provide for themselves and their families."
Connecticut has been a national leader in the housing arena, recognized for its work to prevent and end homelessness, as well as expanding affordable housing opportunities across the state. Since 2011, together with the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA), the state has created 7,551 affordable units with another 2,570 affordable units currently under construction, and funding commitments are in place to create another 5,730 affordable units. The state's investment in affordable housing totals over one billion dollars - a stark representation as to the high level of commitment being made to prevent and end homelessness, while ensuring that every resident has access to secure, safe, and affordable housing.
**Download: Letter from First Lady Michelle Obama to Governor Malloy congratulating the State of Connecticut on efforts to end veteran homelessness