Jun 05 2014
By: Forrest Allen
First Lady Michelle Obama speaking in the East Room of the White House
58,000 American veterans are currently homeless. First Lady Michelle Obama decried this statistic as a “moral outrage” at a White House event to announce the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. While that number is only 0.3 percent of all veterans, as Mrs. Obama stated, “even one homeless veteran is a shame!”
The ultimate goal of the Mayors Challenge is to completely end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. That goal is a tall task for sure, but possible with all of the pieces working together. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and the National League of Cities are working together to make this goal a reality.
Acting Veteran Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson (top) and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan (bottom)
The call to action was specific to mayors, but Mrs. Obama, whose Joining Forces initiatives reflect her commitment to our veterans, extended the task to all Americans. She urged leaders across the country to get on board and make every effort, no matter how small, to erase veteran homelessness.
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker spoke before the crowd on behalf of the 77 participating mayors, expressing his appreciation for the assistance of HUD and the VA, which put his city three-quarters of the way to the end goal. Acting Secretary of the VA Sloan Gibson and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan followed these remarks by voicing the commitment of their agencies, and promoting the success of current efforts such as the Housing First approach and the HUD-VASH program.
The speakers showed enthusiasm for the Mayor’s Challenge with success stories and promises for the future. They referred to mayors as partners and warriors in this effort to end veteran homelessness, and made it apparent that they wanted returning soldiers to feel like they are returning to a grateful nation.
Mrs. Obama’s concluding remarks brought the crowd to its feet; “when a veteran comes home kissing the ground, it is unacceptable the he should have to sleep on it.”
Forrest Allen is MOAA’s Member Service Center specialist on legislative affairs.