A city known for its deep dish pizza and windy weather wants another claim to fame: a community without a single homeless vet.
On Sept. 16, Chicago became the latest major U.S. city to announce plans to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, as Mayor Rahm Emanuel committed $800,000 of city money to a predominantly federally backed $5 million-a-year plan, the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
The City of Chicago identified 721 homeless veterans (465 of whom were living in shelters, while 256 were on the streets) through a point-in-time survey taken in January. The numbers are unacceptable to Mayor Emanuel, who wants to make sure "any veteran, having fought for the homeland, is not homeless when they come home."
Funds allocated toward the goal will boost social services programs and utilize four acres of city property for new housing facilities, NBC 5 News in Chicago reported. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the mayor's announcement included plans to open a unique center servicing both veterans and their families.
The Windy City is the latest of several communities across the country pledging to take on the issue. In June, first lady Michelle Obama launched the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, which partners mayors with federal and nonprofit efforts to end the crisis by the end of next year. In the eight weeks after the initiative began, 182 communities signed on to the challenge, the White House announced in August.
"And now, we can see the finish line," the first lady said in a speech in July, applauding the challenge's successful launch. "And if we achieve our goal, if we end homelessness for our veterans, then we’ll show everyone in this country that we can also do it for all those families shuttling from motel to motel, for all those LGBT teens and for every single person experiencing homelessness throughout our country."
A survey by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Interagency Council on Homelessness and Department of Housing and Urban Development released at the end of August showed a nearly 40 percent drop in the number of veterans sleeping on the street in the last four years.