Tucson is one of 25 cities selected by the President Barack Obama to lead an effort to end veterans homelessness by 2015.
Mayor Jonathan Rothschild supports the effort and has formed a working group to identify homeless veterans and place 52 of them a month into housing.
Representatives from various agencies joined the mayor at a news conference to discuss what it will take to accomplish the goal.
“We have all the elements we need for success. We have leadership at the local level, nonprofits focused on housing and supportive services, major military installations and a strong VA hospital,” Mayor Rothschild said. We also have a community that cares about and respects its veterans, he said.
“Our homeless veterans run the gamut , from chronic homeless to students taking classes at Pima Community College or the University of Arizona and living in their cars,” Rothschild said. “We can get both populations – chronic homeless and recent homeless – off the street and into housing. We’re working hard to make this happen quickly, but it certainly won’t be easy. It’s going to require commitment from our city departments and employees, from our agency partners and from our community.”
The military also is doing its part to help veterans find housing.
“There are a tremendous amount of programs that exist to help military members transition from military to civilian life,” said Col. Michael T. Rawls, vice commander of the 355th Fighter Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. “D-M has a very longstanding relationship with the city….and over the last two years Davis-Monthan has donated over 90 dorm rooms of furniture, including beds, dressers, desks and everything that would be needed to help setup and establish a home for veterans.”
More veterans in Tucson will need housing soon, as about 900 people a year in our community will separate from the military after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
Several nonprofits in Tucson also are working to find homes for veterans living on the streets. Those agencies include CODAC, Primavera Foundation, American Red Cross Southern Arizona Chapter, The Salvation Army and others.
Mayor Rothschild said one of the ways to accomplish the goal of ending veterans homelessness is to reduce in half the amount of time it takes to process paperwork for special housing vouchers for veterans, administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The City of Tucson’s Housing and Community Development Department reports 353 documented cases of homeless veterans in Tucson, down from more than 500 two years ago.