DOVER — Too often, the return to civilian life can bring a cascade of challenges that can lead to homelessness for veterans.
In an effort to resolve the issue, Gov. Jack Markell signed on to a challenge to end veteran homelessness during an event Monday morning at American Legion Post No. 2 on Bay Road.
The governor also addressed the state’s effort to find homes for all homeless veterans in Delaware by the end of 2015.
“There is nothing that should disturb us more than the idea of veterans being homeless,” he said.
Gov. Markell was joined by U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Regional Administrator Jane Vincent, Delaware State Housing Authority Director Anas Ben Addi, Department of Health and Social Services Secretary Rita Landgraf, and Mayor Robin Christiansen, among others.
Last June first lady Michelle Obama encouraged mayors and local leaders to join a coalition of leaders committed to ending veteran homelessness in their communities by the end of 2015.
The Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness seeks to eliminate veteran homelessness by ensuring those who are homeless are able to be placed in permanent housing. In addition, those who are at risk of becoming homeless are quickly identified and provided with appropriate resources to prevent them from experiencing homelessness.
DSHA and DHSS were tasked with developing the plan. On any given night 100 veterans in Delaware are homeless. In 2015 an estimated 280 veterans will experience homelessness in Delaware.
A working group including state and federal agencies, nonprofit providers and veterans service agencies has developed a plan to address the problem. The plan includes identifying veterans who are currently homeless or at a high risk of homelessness, improving connections and coordination between veteran-specific and mainstream resources for homelessness prevention and rapid re-housing.
“Every veteran should have the opportunity and support to live a full, healthy life in our state,” Mr. Addi said.
The agencies plan to measure their progress with the 2016 Point-in-Time count, an annual report which identifies the number of people homeless on one night in January, said Mr. Addi.
Also they plan to engage in ongoing measurement through the Community Management Information System.
Veteran Gary Dawkins served seven years in the Army and eventually became homeless due to the economy, he said.
He eventually found shelter at the Home of the Brave, a transitional housing facility for male and female veterans in Milford.
He became a model resident and assisted other residents with their health and spiritual well-being.
“There are many veterans out there that need help,” Mr. Dawkins said. I hope each veteran takes advantage of the resources that are available to them.”
He went to school through the Department of Labor WIA program to get his CDL truck endorsement license and became employed through the First State Community Action Senior Employment Program.
After being at the HOB for approximately 20 months he became eligible for housing through the DSHA Public Housing program for seniors. Mr. Dawkins believes the effort will help many veterans moving forward.
“You have to be persistent, patient and have a passion for where you want to go,” Mr. Dawkins said. “When I left HOB there are people that are still there that can hear my story and may feel as they can get out their situation as well.
“It’s great that the state is coming together to provide resources for veterans to help them like it helped me.”