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WINSTON-SALEM MEETS HOMELESS VETERANS CHALLENGE

According to the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, Winston-Salem and Forsyth County have met the challenge of housing their homeless veterans.

In a letter to Mayor Allen Joines, Executive Director Matthew Doherty confirmed that the city and county have met the council’s measure for having ended veteran homelessness by putting in place resources to rapidly find permanent housing for anyone identified as a homeless veteran.

“Achieving this milestone is a testimony to the hard work of the people and organizations that have been working tirelessly to house our homeless veterans,” Joines said. “Given this success, I have no doubt that we will succeed in meeting our ultimate goal of ending chronic homelessness for all in our community.”

In 2014 Joines signed on to participate in the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, announced by the Obama Administration. Joines that year also signed up Winston-Salem as one of sixteen founding members of the Veterans Housing Leadership Network, an initiative organized by the National League of Cities challenging cities to end veteran homelessness by 2015.

Winston-Salem has been working to reduce homelessness through the efforts of the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Commission on Ending Homelessness, an advisory board appointed by the City Council and the Forsyth County Commissioners to implement the recommendations of the Ten-Year Plan to End Chronic Homelessness. The plan was adopted in 2006. The United Way of Forsyth County provides staff support for the commission and oversees its day-to-day activities.

For veterans, the commission compiled grants and donations to build a housing facility with 24 beds for homeless veterans that provides supportive services and helps them transition to permanent housing. The commission also helped the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem secure 139 housing vouchers for homeless veterans in Forsyth County, and coordinates the efforts of local non-profit agencies that are working to house the homeless, said Andrea Kurtz, the senior director of housing strategies for the United Way and the director for the Commission on Ending Homelessness.

“Our campaign to end veteran homelessness has been a team effort,” Kurtz said. “Credit belongs to the agencies that who have been making this happen, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Helping Veterans Heal, the Salvation Army, the United Way, Housing and Urban Development, Good Will Industries of Northwest North Carolina, the N.C. Housing Foundation, the Experiment in Self-Reliance, the city’s Community and Business Development Department, the Housing Authority of Winston-Salem, H.A.R.R.Y. Veteran Community Outreach Services and Whole Man Ministries.

“Their willingness to work together to tackle the many different factors that must be addressed to end veteran homelessness made it possible for our community to get this far. At the beginning of this year we anticipated we would need to house 86 veterans by December to reach the goal of ending veteran homelessness. So far this year, as a community, we have housed 127.”

Kaye Green, the director of the VA Medical Center in Salisbury, said, “The efforts of Winston-Salem, Forsyth County and all the organizations involved showcase the ability we have as communities in North Carolina to end veteran homelessness. The Salisbury VA Health Care System is extremely proud to be part of the team making this announcement as one of the first communities in the nation to reach this milestone.”

Terry Allebaugh, the ending veteran homelessness coordinator for the N.C. Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, said, “Winston-Salem and Forsyth County are one of the shining stars lighting our way as we work to fulfill the mission of ending veteran homelessness in all of North Carolina.”

Kurtz said that homeless veterans will still appear in the community. “But now we have in place the resources to house veterans as they come to our attention. Moving forward, we will be working to expand this capability so that we can end all chronic homelessness in Winston- Salem and Forsyth County.”

The community’s aggressive efforts to address homelessness earned it an invitation last year to participate in Zero: 2016, a national campaign organized by Community Solutions to end veteran homelessness by December 2015 and end chronic homelessness by December 2016.!

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