“The climb will get steeper the closer we get to the summit.” – Secretary of Veterans Affairs, General (Ret.) Eric K. Shinseki

Speaking at the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans conference in May, Secretary Shinseki used these words to describe the work ahead of us if we intend to eliminate veteran homelessness by 2015. We have made progress in the past four years towards this goal, decreasing veteran homelessness by 17.2 percent since 2009. However, on a single night in January 2012, there were 62,619 veterans experiencing homelessness, which is 62,619 too many.

Communities have worked to provide housing for many veterans through HUD-VASH programs and Housing First models. Nevertheless, Secretary Shinseki reminds us to go further:

“All the easy cases will have been housed. In the end, we will have the toughest, most difficult cases to solve—some prior failures, some behavioral problems, even some serious mental health issues…I don’t think we signed up for just the easy cases, did we?”

To tackle tough cases we need to get creative. We need to foster new partnerships and reexamine existing ones to answer the question: What are we doing today to end veteran homelessness?  Everyone reading this post has expertise to contribute, or knows someone who does.

At Policy Research Associates, we are home to numerous national technical assistance centers in the behavioral health field, including:

We’re asking ourselves this question and creating new efforts to support veterans, such as expanding our outreach to connect veterans experiencing homelessness with Social Security benefits, or strengthening behavioral health services for justice-involved veterans to help them achieve housing stability upon release from incarceration.

We can only end veteran homelessness by working together. We’d love to partner with you and your community in this effort. I encourage you to reach out and let us know how we can support your efforts.

Secretary Shinseki gives us this mission:  “So long as a single Veteran lives on our streets, we have work to do, and I challenge you to bring them all in to where the rest of us live.”

Contact Policy Research Associates: pra@prainc.com, 518-439-7415

Department of Veterans Affairs Homeless Initiative: http://www.va.gov/homeless/

Confidential 24/7 helpline for homeless or at-risk veterans: 1-877-4AID-VET/1-877-424-3838

Jen is a Sr. Project Associate for the SOAR Center serving as a liaison to 10 states.