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Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Department of Family and Support Services (DFSS) announced today that the City will be partnering with the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA); the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD); the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA); All Chicago; and the Corporation for Supportive Housing to end homelessness among veterans in Chicago by the end of 2015.
“No one who has who fought to defend their country should struggle to find a home,” said Mayor Emanuel, “We will keep faith with our veterans by making the investments needed to ensure that no veteran remains homeless in Chicago. I am proud to embark on this effort to end veteran homelessness as we know it in the City of Chicago by 2015.”
Ending veteran homelessness will require nearly $5 million each year to provide subsidized housing, supportive services, and other forms of assistance. More than 80 percent of the funding will come from the federal government. Mayor Emanuel’s 2015 budget will invest more than $800,000 and close the gap on the remaining funding.
"In just a few years we have reduced homelessness among veterans by 33%, but we have more work to do,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “I applaud Mayor Emanuel for accepting the Obama Administration’s Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. I look forward to working with him over the next year to ensure all of our veterans in Chicago have a stable home and an opportunity to succeed."
The City’s investment will support three dozen permanent supportive housing units, social service case management services to match individuals with the right housing options, and rapid rehousing support such as rental subsidies for another 70 veterans. The total investment will allow Chicago to meet President Barack Obama’s Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness by the end of 2015.
“By working collaboratively with our federal and local partners, the President’s goal of ending Veteran Homelessness by the end of 2015 is doable here in Chicago,” noted Evelyn J. Diaz, Commissioner of DFSS. “We are proud to take part in this combined effort to serve those who so honorably served us and our great nation.”
The City conducted a point-in-time count in January 2014 that identified 721 homeless veterans. Of this count, 465 homeless veterans live in shelters and 256 homeless veterans are unsheltered. As outlined in Chicago’s Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness 2.0, the City of Chicago, All Chicago, and the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center have developed a shared plan to move as many veterans as possible from homelessness to housing.
“Every veteran who has served our country deserves our support. Mayor Emanuel’s commitment to this effort provides us with the opportunity to help those homeless veterans who do not quality for VA assistance and enable them to find housing and stability,” said Dr. Nonie Brennan, Chief Executive Officer of All Chicago, a nonprofit group that includes the Chicago Alliance to End Homelessness and Emergency Fund.
Under Mayor Emanuel’s leadership, the City of Chicago engaged with more than 500 stakeholders in 2012 to develop Plan 2.0 to Prevent and End Homelessness, a broad-ranging, seven-year action that focuses on homeless prevention, housing first and wraparound services while identifying new strategies to improve access and opportunity for those most in need.
In the first two years of the plan, the City has:
“Every veteran should have the safety and stability of secure housing, and with this initiative the City of Chicago is becoming a symbol and shining example for other cities to follow,” said Victor LaGroon, a Post-9/11 Army Veteran and Co-Chair of the Chicago Advisory Council on Veterans Affairs, “The advisory council supports this effort and looks forward to working with the City, partner organizations, and Chicago veterans to ensure that the goal of ending homelessness among veterans is achieved.”
In 2012, Mayor Emanuel launched the Returning Veterans Initiative to find employment for returning veterans and help them find resources that are designed to assist their transition. To help transition job-ready veterans into the workforce, the City opened a New Veterans Employment Center Veterans Resource Center specifically designed for career assistance and a new Veterans Resource Office, co-located at the Mayor's Office for People with Disabilities and across the street from the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center, which specializes in assisting veterans with disabilities.
“The Jesse Brown VA Medical Center recognizes that meeting the needs of Veterans and their families requires collaboration and partnerships," Ann R. Brown, FACHE, Director, Jesse Brown VA Medical Center. "It is my pleasure to be a part of Mayor Emanuel’s initiative to end Veteran Homelessness in Chicago by 2015.”
Mayor Emanuel and Chancellor Cheryl Hyman also launched the Service to Success Initiative at City Colleges of Chicago to provide Chicago’s returning veterans with the support and education necessary to succeed at home.
“Male and female veterans have fought for this great country and now this is our turn to fight for the,” said 11th Ward Alderman James Balcer. “As a Vietnam veteran, I commend the Mayor in taking such an integral step in ending veteran homelessness in the city."
“Today’s announcement further demonstrates the City’s commitment to ensuring veterans have access to the critical resources most needed,” said 31st Ward Alderman Ray Suarez. “And, more importantly, through this partnership the men and women who have fought to defend this country will now have a place to call home.”
Throughout his career, Mayor Emanuel has supported initiatives to keep faith with America’s veterans. During his time as senior advisor to President Clinton, the federal government greatly increased its investment in veterans’ benefits by increasing the VA's budget by 33 percent between 1993 and 2001.
As a member of Congress, he introduced the Welcome Home GI Bill in 2005 and co-sponsored and helped pass the Post-9/11 Veterans Educational Assistance Act of 2008. During his tenure as chief of staff to President Obama, Mayor Emanuel helped develop the President’s call to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.