Connecticut Says It Has Ended Chronic Homelessness for Veterans
NEWINGTON — Earlier this year, advocates counted 41 chronically homeless veterans living on Connecticut’s streets. On Thursday, state and federal officials proclaimed that housing has now been found for all those troubled vets, calling it a landmark in the effort to help veterans.
“We are the first state in the nation to end chronic homelessness among our veterans,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said during a ceremony at a veterans’ housing complex.
The governor said the state’s goal is to bring an end to homelessness for veterans in Connecticut by the end of this year, and to provide housing and support services for all homeless people in the state by the end of 2016.
Despite the progress being made, Malloy and members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation who attended the event Thursday said more needs to be done to help both veterans and others living on the streets.
“This is not a ‘mission accomplished’ moment,” said U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal. “We still have a lot of work to do.”
A spokesman for the state Department of Housing said Thursday the state has invested at least $3 million in rental subsidies and special services for Connecticut’s homeless veterans, with the bulk of that money being allocated in the past five years.
Lisa Tepper Bates, executive director of the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness, said state funding has been critical in helping to “fill in the gaps” despite the millions spent by the federal government to deal with homeless veterans.
“In a lot of states,” Bates said, “there is no state investment.”
She said the key is addressing the needs of each individual or family, and having the right type of housing and support services available to fulfill those needs.
U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald also attended Thursday’s celebration and praised Connecticut’s efforts to help homeless veterans.
“The federal government can’t do it by itself,” said McDonald, who has been in charge of the federal agency for barely a year. Cooperation with states and nonprofit organizations is critical, he added.
A “chronically homeless veteran” is defined by state and federal officials as a veteran who has a disability and has been homeless for a year, or three times in a four-year period.
Connecticut’s February survey showed a total of 39 additional veterans who were homeless in addition to the chronically homeless vets who were found living on the streets.
Malloy said ongoing state efforts have placed “nearly 300 veterans previously experiencing chronic homelessness” in permanent housing in recent years.
The survey of Connecticut’s homeless earlier this year found declines in virtually all categories of people and families living on the streets or in homeless shelters. The total number of people living in homeless shelters in February was 3,412, a 4 percent drop from the previous year.
Another 626 people were found to be living on the streets — a decrease of 32 percent from the 2013 survey by the Coalition to End Homelessness.
Thursday’s event dealing with chronic homeless veterans was held on the lawn of Victory Gardens, a veterans’ housing complex next to the U.S. Veteran Affairs medical facility in Newington.
McDonald said progress has been made to reduce the huge backlog in applications by veterans seeking help from the federal veteran’s administration. Revelations about that backlog created an uproar and demands for reform in recent years.
According to McDonald, that backlog in applications peaked in March 2013 at more than 611,000 applications waiting to be processed by the VA. He said that number has been cut by 80 percent, and new claims are now being handled within 125 days.
Blumenthal, who is the ranking Democrat on the U.S. Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, said the reduction in the numbers of veterans in Connecticut waiting for their applications to be processed reflected those national statistics.
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