Today the nation interrupts the normal course of events and sets aside time to reflect upon the service and sacrifice of those who have served in our military. All of us, no matter our political or religious affiliation, income, gender, or race, unite to honor veterans, knowing that they deserve the deepest gratitude of the nation.
Therefore, we must also share a deep dismay that today, on Veterans Day, some 100,000 of these veterans are homeless.
In the past 30 years, we have seen the problem of homelessness among veterans emerge, grow, and become institutionalized. The growing shortage of affordable housing in our nation, coupled with the personal challenges of trauma and injury that too many veterans face, has led to this American tragedy.
But today, we are in a unique position to put an end to veteran homelessness. In the last six months, our county has stepped up to the challenge of creating real, lasting solutions for our nation's heroes.
In June 2010, the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness released Opening Doors: The Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. In this document the Administration pledges to end veteran homelessness in five years, a pledge echoed by a determined Secretary of Veterans Affairs, Eric Shinseki, repeatedly in the last year.
Since the announcement of the plan, VA has committed the resources to follow through.
The Department hired people to implement the strategies in the plan. Those strategies include an emphasis on preventing homelessness, housing stability, and access to the treatment and other services so many homeless veterans and their families need. The focus is shifting from temporary fixes to quickly ending homelessness for each individual veteran. VA is making data central to the process and carefully measuring what works, and what doesn't.
But the federal government doesn't have all the answers, and individual communities are also joining the effort.
Just this week, a group of business leaders working with the Chamber of Commerce and United Way of Greater Los Angeles unveiled Home for Good: An Action Plan to End Chronic and Veterans Homelessness 2016. This is a blueprint for a new approach focused squarely on providing veterans with homes. It also aims to deliver the services homeless veterans need to integrate into the life of their communities. The business leaders have already offered to partner with VA, and will now fan out to gain the support of elected officials, government agencies, philanthropists, nonprofits and consumers. But the business approach brooks no delay - with a five year timeline they are looking for fast action.
A genuine partnership between cities and the federal government, with shared strategies and a common goal of ending veteran homelessness, is formidable. Congress is also on board, having provided significant resources to help homeless veterans while pressing that results must be improved. In short, resources, political will, public will, and know-how are all in place.
We cannot allow this opportunity to pass. Homeless veterans, their families, and their communities are counting on us to persevere. Our veterans put everything on the line for their country - we can do no less for them.
Follow Nan Roman on Twitter: www.twitter.com/naehomelessness