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Markell, state officials detail plan to end veteran homelessness

Gov. Markell joins regional HUD administrator Jane Vincent, DHSS Secretary Rita Landgraf and DSHA Director Anas Ben Addi signing their acceptance of the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness in Dover Monday.

Estimates show in Delaware 280 veterans will experience homelessness sometime during 2015 – and an average of 100 veterans are homeless on a given night.

To address that issue and follow through on a State of the State promise, Gov. Jack Markell signed the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness Monday in Dover - making Delaware seventh state to commit to ending the problem this year.

Markell accepted the nominal challenge from regional HUD administrator Jane Vincent. His plan - developed by state and federal agencies working with local non-profits and veterans organizations - would create a statewide working group to collect data, plan and draft policy to house veterans and coordinate efforts. It will seek to find at-risk veterans, connect them with services and rental vouchers, then track outcomes.

It will share its data and plans with local working groups that will identify housing opportunities and support services for vets in need - and report any issues to the state level.

Vincent says communication between agencies to identify at-risk  veterans and their individual needs can significantly reduce the time it takes to find vets a place to live and the skills to sustain it.

“By working collaboratively," she said, " and figuring out where we were being too bureaucratic, or taking too much time or taking too long between the handoff between agencies – that we can really shorten that.”

Delaware Commission for Veterans Affairs executive director Lawrence Kirby says identifying at-risk veterans is difficult and requires determining the root causes of each individual’s situation .

“A lot of folks are under the impression that you can just give the homeless person a key and it will solve the issue, but realistically we have to find out: Is there a substance abuse issue; are there financial challenges? And that’s a part of what we’re doing with the other agencies.”

Kirby adds cooperation and communication between those agencies is crucial to providing veterans a place they can call their own.

The Mayor’s Challenge was announced by First Lady Michelle Obama last June – urging elected officials to solve the problem in their communities, cities and states.

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