The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced that four cities in Western New York have managed to reduce local veteran homelessness rates to zero, the Buffalo News reported. The agency added Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Lockport and Tonawanda to an expanding list of American municipalities with no homeless former service members.
"This designation confirms the hard work our local partners have been doing to assist our most vulnerable veterans," Dale Zuchlewski, executive director for the Homeless Alliance of Western New York, said in a news release. "Though our close community partnerships, we have now become a national best-practice model for service to homeless veterans."
These cities joined the fight to end veteran homelessness in June 2014, when first lady Michelle Obama called on local and state officials to address the problem, The New York Times reported. Additionally, Obama partnered with HUD to develop a program called the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness which established benchmarks and criteria for local leaders looking to find homes for all their struggling former service members. With this initiative and others the Obama administration pledged to end veteran homelessness by 2015.
"Now, there are fewer than 40,000 homeless veterans."
"But even one homeless veteran is a shame, and the fact that we have 58,000 is a moral outrage," Michelle Obama said during an event announcing the new program. "Now we have to finish the job once and for all, because when a veteran comes home kissing the ground, it is unacceptable that he should ever have to sleep on it."
Though many veterans in the U.S. are still without homes, the number has dropped significantly. Now, there are fewer than 40,000, according to recent data from the Department of Veterans Affairs. This represents a 50 percent drop in the number of homeless veterans over the past six years.
Two states – Connecticut and Virginia – have reduced veteran homelessness rates to zero, along with more than 33 municipalities.
While there is still more work to do, cities such as Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Lockport and Tonawanda represent that hard work that is taking place in communities across the country.