Senior Spotlight By John Toscano
A historic agreement between the City of New York and the United States Veterans’ Affairs Department to help end veterans’ homelessness in New York City was announced last week by Mayor Michael Bloomberg and federal VA Secretary Jim Nicholson.
The agreement calls for the city and VA to place 100 veterans into permanent housing in 100 days. The VA and the city Department of Homeless Services (DHS) will also form a task force that will report back in 100 days with a strategic plan to end veterans’ homelessness in the city.
The announcement was made at the Borden Avenue veterans’ residence in Long Island City, the first veterans-only shelter established in the United States.
“No veteran should be sleeping on the streets or in shelters in New York City,” the mayor declared at the ceremony. “Our city and our country owe a debt of gratitude to our veterans, and those who have had the misfortune to become homeless deserve our help to get back on their feet,” the mayor added. “I hope that our new partnership with Veterans’ Affairs will become a national model.”
Nicholson stated, “This agreement represents another positive step forward in our fight to eradicate the scourge of veteran homelessness from our streets. Our veterans have served us all by taking the oath to preserve liberty and protect our way of life, and we must and will continue to work together to repay our grateful nation’s debt to these valiant defenders.”
Nicholson applauded Bloomberg’s leadership in combatting veteran homelessness, and said he and the VA looks forward to working with the city on this initiative and others that serve American veterans.
Also speaking at the press conference, DHS Commissioner Robert V. Hess stated that the city will make 100 permanent housing slots immediately available for veterans in the next 100 days.
Rather than house the vets at the Borden Avenue shelter, the city will provide permanent housing in apartments or reunite the vets with their families.
The city will find the placements by reinvesting resources currently devoted to the emergency shelter system, the mayor’s announcement said. The vets will be moved to supportive housing or other options using the existing DHS placement system.
During the same 100-day period, a joint city-VA task force will develop permanent strategies for housing the remaining homeless veterans in the city. The task force will include community agencies and veterans service organizations with expertise in serving homeless veterans.
The new joint outreach teams and a new homeless intake center will be for veterans’ exclusive use. For the first time ever, the outreach
teams will include VA staff that can assist with issues unique to vets. The VA has also committed to providing additional health care, mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment for eligible veterans in permanent and supportive housing.