City has at least 78 homeless veterans
LEXINGTON, Ky. (July 25, 2014) —Lexington is joining a nationwide effort to end homelessness among military veterans. Today, Mayor Jim Gray announced his commitment to the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, an initiative recently unveiled at the White House.
“Everyone deserves a safe, clean place they can call home, especially men and women who have served our country,” Gray said. “Accepting this challenge is the right thing to do, and Lexington’s strong network of partners who serve veterans and other citizens who are homeless will be an important part of this commitment.”
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development estimates there are 58,000 homeless veterans nationwide. Lexington homelessness providers conduct an annual count of the homeless population each January and this year found 78 veterans experiencing homelessness who were staying in emergency shelters. But these numbers change day to day.
In addition to joining the Mayors Challenge, Gray also announced an expansion of rental assistance available to local veterans who are homeless. The Lexington-Fayette Urban County Housing Authority will receive 51 Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers from HUD. The vouchers, administered in partnership with the Lexington VA Medical Center, provide rental assistance and critical support services to help get veterans off the street.
“Over the past six years the Housing Authority has used 195 vouchers provided through the HUD-VASH program to help veterans obtain safe housing,” said Austin Simms, executive director of the Housing Authority. “These additional 51 vouchers will further the Housing Authority’s mission of providing safe, affordable housing to families in need.”
Earlier this year, the city committed $3.5 million to affordable housing and homelessness and created a new Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention. Charlie Lanter, director of the office, said part of that funding will be used to launch a Housing First pilot project.
Recognized as a best practice by HUD and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, the Housing First model provides homeless individuals with permanent housing first, and then works to surround the participant with supportive services they need to remain in the home.
“We are eager to implement a Housing First model in Lexington because it could provide a new and research-tested solution to some people for whom traditional homeless services have not worked,” Lanter said. “Case studies have shown it can be more helpful to the long-term well-being of some people, while addressing homelessness in a more cost-effective way than cycling individuals through jails, emergency rooms and mental health facilities.”
Creation of the homelessness office and using the Housing First model were two recommendations made in a 2013 report of the Mayor’s Commission on Homelessness.