Morse: ‘One veteran that’s homeless is one too many’

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse was 1 of 8 New England mayors who have pledged to end homelessness among veterans by 2015.

Mayor Morse flew to Washington D.C. on Wednesday and met with First Lady Michelle Obama. The new initiative includes a rental voucher program that could help local vets find homes and jobs.

22News spoke with Mayor Morse on the phone right after that meeting at the White House:

“Even if there’s only a handful of homeless veterans in our community, just one veteran that’s homeless is one too many. We are working closely with our veterans office, how to connect them to either apartments and then of course job opportunities if they are looking for them.”

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Resources available in western Massachusetts:

(Information provided by John Paradis, Soldiers Home in Holyoke Director of Outreach)

The Soldiers’ Home in Holyoke has an office for two state Veteran programs known as SAVE and SHARP. They work together to provide peer-to-peer support to veterans.

SAVE advocates for veterans who are not able to obtain the benefits they have earned due to institutional or personal barriers.

The SHARP team is a collaborative effort between the Massachusetts Department of Veteran Services and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in the effort to end homelessness among veterans.

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(Information provided by the White House)

To aid the mayors in pursuit of the goal of ending homelessness among veterans, the federal government has provided resources and enforced programs to strengthen our country’s homeless assistance programs.

These resources and reforms, when implemented in local communities, can include:

  • Using a Housing First approach, which removes barriers to help veterans obtain permanent housing as quickly as possible, without unnecessary prerequisites
  • Prioritizing the most vulnerable veterans, especially those experiencing chronic homelessness, for permanent supportive housing opportunities, including those created through the HUD-VASH program which offers vital housing assistance in the form of a rental voucher to help house approximately 10,000 veterans
  • Coordinating outreach efforts to identify and engage every veteran experiencing homelessness and focus outreach efforts on achieving housing outcomes
  • Targeting rapid rehousing interventions, including those made possible through the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Supportive Services for Veteran Families program, toward veterans who need shorter-term rental subsidies and services in order to be reintegrated back into our communities
  • Leveraging housing and services resources that can help veterans who are ineligible for some of the VA’s programs get into stable housing
  • Increasing early detection and access to preventive services so at‐risk veterans remain stably housed
  • Closely monitoring progress toward the goal, including the success of programs achieving permanent housing outcomes
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