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The Number of Homeless Veterans in Virginia Has Plummeted in Recent Years

Homelessness among veterans is down in Virginia, way down.

Since 2010, the number of homeless vets in Virginia has been slashed in half. So how did it happen?

“The simple short answer is money.”

That’s Pam Michell at New Hope Housing in Northern Virginia. She says Democrats and Republicans worked together at the federal, state and local level to throw money at the problem, and do it in a way that made a real difference.

“I can remember walking into one of our hypothermia programs and asking somebody who I didn’t know if he was a veteran and his answer was unfortunately no. And I understood exactly what he meant because the options for him were much more limited.”

Matthew Leslie at the Virginia Department of Veterans Services says one of the key differences was taking a housing first approach.

“And that’s really the idea of instead of requiring someone to get treatment or go through financial literacy classes or all of these other things before they got houses, we really focused on getting them housed and then wrapping services around.”

The good news is that the financial resources and the housing first approach worked, and Virginia now has fewer than 500 homeless vets. The more challenging part of that news is how to translate that success to other people who are homeless and not veterans.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.