hud mayors challenge homeless vetsTeamwork- Participants in the Mayors Challenge convening day-long event gather for a group photo. HUD, VA officials, New Jersey mayors, advocates and non-profits work to end veteran homelessness in 2015.

Lyons, NJ- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) New Jersey Field Office hosted a day of informational panels geared towards highlighting resources available to the New Jersey mayors and elected officials that committed to the  Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness . The event took place at the Lyons NJ VA Medical Center on August 18.

The Mayors Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness is a White House initiative that aims to eliminate homelessness in the country by the end of this year. It asks U.S. mayors to commit to the Mayors Challenge and use available resources such as HUD-VASH housing vouchers; and work with local Continuums of Care, non-profits, and advocates to find permanent housing for these veterans in need.

The day-long session featured remarks from Maria Maio-Messano, HUD New Jersey Field Office Director; Julie Irwin, Veterans Affairs Homeless Care Line Manager for VISN III, and Elisha Harig-Blaine, Principal Housing Associate, National League of Cities. Three panels highlighted resources and best practices using HUD and VA programs, non-profits, and advocacy organizations.

One of the highlights of the event were the testimonies of two previously homeless veterans that were able to access  HUD-VASH housing vouchers, that come with supportive services such as counseling and medicals services. Homeless veterans that qualify apply at the Lyons Campus of the VA Medical Center.  

Between the 2010 rollout of Opening Doors – the first-ever federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness – and the January 2014 point-in-time homeless count, homelessness among veterans nationwide has been slashed by 33 percent.

Since 2008, more than 79,000 HUD-VASH vouchers have been awarded nationwide; over 1000 in New Jersey. Approximately 90,000 homeless veterans in the U.S. have been served through the HUD-VASH program. Rental assistance and supportive services provided through HUD-VASH are a critical resource for local communities in ending homelessness among our nation's Veterans.

In the HUD-VASH program, VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) assess veterans experiencing homelessness before referring them to local housing agencies for these vouchers. Decisions are based on a variety of factors, most importantly the duration of homelessness and the need for longer term, more intensive support in obtaining and maintaining permanent housing. The HUD-VASH program includes both the rental assistance the voucher provides and the comprehensive case management that VAMC staff offers.

Veterans participating in the HUD-VASH program rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. VA offers eligible homeless veterans clinical and supportive services through its medical centers across the U.S., Guam, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Other participants at the Lyons VA Medical Center event included Brick Township Mayor John Ducey; Sheena Collum, South Orange Village President; Victor DeLuca, Mayor of Maplewood; Julia Orlando, Director, Bergen County Housing Health & Human Services Center and Member of the NJ Governor’s Homeless Working Group; Blair Schleicher Bravo, CEO Morris County Habitat for Humanity; Carmine V. DEO, COO/VP of Clinical Services, Community Hope, Inc., and Jack Fanous, Executive Director, G.I. Go Fund.

Links to homelessness statistics and information on the Mayors Challenge, including the list of New Jersey Mayors that have signed on:

HUD Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress - https://www.hudexchange.info/resources/documents/2014-AHAR-Part1.pdf

HUD Homeless Population and Subpopulation report by State - https://www.hudexchange.info/manage-a-program/coc-homeless-populations-and-subpopulations-reports/

Numbers by County - https://www.hudexchange.info/manage-a-program/coc-homeless-populations-and-subpopulations-reports/?&filter_year=&filter_scope=&filter_state=&filter_coc=&current_page=7

Link to Mayors Challenge list of NJ mayors that signed on: http://portal.hud.gov/hudportal/HUD?src=/program_offices/comm_planning/veteran_information/mayors_challenge/mayors_and_staff