Federal officials have informed Mayor Chris Beutler that Lincoln has effectively ended homelessness among Veterans. The confirmation came from the U.S. Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) and the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), which coordinates the federal response to homelessness in partnership with 19 federal member agencies.
The designation of "functional zero" means a community's homeless response system has the capacity and coordination to immediately house any Veteran who identifies as homeless. Lincoln is the 62nd community in the country to achieve the benchmark.
"No one who has served our country in the military should face homelessness," Mayor Beutler said. "That goal has become reality in the Capital City, demonstrating again the respect and gratitude our residents have for our Veterans. This achievement would not have been possible without the commitment of the Lincoln Homeless Coalition members who worked with our federal agencies to make sure all Veterans have shelter and the services they need to improve their lives. This is a proud milestone our entire community."
The Lincoln Homeless Coalition is a collaborative group of about 45 organizations working together to address the issue of homelessness in our community. The coalition has developed a Continuum of Care (CoC) Plan to organize and deliver housing and services to meet the specific needs of people who are homeless as they move to stable housing and maximum self-sufficiency. HUD has divided Nebraska into three CoC areas -- Omaha, Lincoln and the "balance of state," which already achieved "functional zero."
"Congratulations to Mayor Beutler, and all the partners in Lincoln, who have worked tirelessly to ensure that Veterans have a safe and stable place to call home," said Matthew Doherty, Executive Director of the USICH. "Today, the City of Lincoln and the entire state of Nebraska add to our proof that ending homelessness is possible, not just for Veterans, but for everyone."
"Through community collaboration, and determination by a dedicated group of people, we have been able to successfully secure housing for homeless Veterans in Lincoln," said Kerry Miller Loos, LICSW, Mental Health Specialty Programs Director for the VA. "The Nebraska Western Iowa VA Health Care System appreciates the community wide effort to serve those who served us."
Two of the key local officials working with the USICH on the designation were Loos and Jeff Chambers, Project Director at the UNL Center on Children, Families and the Law, a member of Lincoln's Homeless Coalition. Chambers said the designation signifies that the City of Lincoln has developed and implemented a continuum of care system: is able to identify any Veteran that is experiencing homelessness; is able to immediately provide shelter to any Veteran that wants it; and has the housing capacity to swiftly move homeless Veterans into permanent housing.
"Having ending veteran's homelessness does not mean that no Veteran will ever again experience homelessness in our city, but that those events will be rare," Chambers said. "When they unfortunately do occur, they will be of short duration, and homelessness for that Veteran will be a one-time event. This achievement is possible only through the dedicated efforts of our entire community and will only be maintained through continued support of our homeless system from prevention and outreach, to shelter, to coordinated entry, to housing services and supports."
"This was a coordinated effort between the City of Lincoln and the many partners and stakeholders to develop a system to identify and rapidly house Veterans experiencing homelessness," said Earl Redrick, Director of the HUD Omaha Field Office. "As veterans are housed, they can also receive services that lead to education and employment opportunities they need to provide for themselves and their families. The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Veterans Administration will continue to support these efforts."
For more information, visit these websites:
Lincoln Homeless Coalition - lincolnhomelesscoalition.org
UNL Center on Children, Families and the Law - ccfl.unl.edu
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs - va.gov
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development - hud.gov
United States Interagency Council on Homelessness - usich.gov