HARTFORD – Rep. Yaccarino joined the governor, state legislators and advocates today to announce that the federal government has certified Connecticut as having effectively ended chronic homelessness among veterans. Over the years, legislators on both sides of the aisle worked to implement a comprehensive, unprecedented system to target homelessness among veterans. Now, Connecticut is just the second state in the nation to accomplish the major milestone of achieving a federal certification of effectively eliminating Veteran homelessness.
Ending homelessness among veterans has been a major goal of Governor Malloy, who in 2014 signed up Connecticut as one of the first states to join a national initiative that sought to secure commitments from communities across the country to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. This federal certification comes after Governor Malloy and U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary MacDonald announced last fall that Connecticut had become the first state in the country to end chronic homelessness among veterans.
“As Ranking Member of the General Assembly’s Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I am proud of the strides we’ve made to assist the over 200,000 Veterans in Connecticut. Specifically, last legislative session, I worked tirelessly to secure the passage of a bill aimed at assisting veterans with removing barriers for employment. I believe that the passage of H.B. 5299 was the first step to help our service men and women get back to work in the fields they were trained in while serving in the military,” said State Rep. Dave Yaccarino.
“The brave men and women who serve our country should have access to fundamental services to living a healthy life. Our Veterans deserve not only a place to call home but they also need jobs in order to live a good, healthy life,” Yaccarino added. “I am proud of our efforts to assist our most vulnerable veterans with a greater opportunity to find employment and I look forward to the continued progress we will make to prevent and end homelessness. There is no reason our Veterans should be unemployed or homeless especially after everything they have done in servitude to our country.”
“This milestone is a major one – we have been a national leader on so many issues and today is yet another reflection. We have a responsibility to take care of our veterans, to ensure that veterans have access to housing, quality health care, education, and career opportunities. We’re proud to have achieved this ambitious goal,” Governor Malloy said. “Just a few years ago, there was no Department of Housing in Connecticut. Today, we’re being recognized for reaching the high goals that we’ve set. We’ve built the infrastructure, through a network of partnerships and investments, to the point at which our housing and supports delivers a home to every veteran in our state. I am incredibly proud of our federal and state agencies, our nonprofits, and our community providers on the frontlines. But we will not stop here – we will keep working to end chronic homelessness in Connecticut by the end of this year,” Yaccarino said.
The designation comes after an extensive review by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), in coordination with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA).
Last August, Connecticut made history when it became the first state in the nation certified by the group as having eliminated chronic homelessness among veterans. Chronic homelessness is defined as an individual with a disability who has been homeless for a period of at least one year or has had three or more episodes of homelessness that total one year. Today’s announcement means the state has effectively eliminated homelessness among all veterans.
Through a partnership of local, state, and federal organizations, Connecticut has created a system that works to prevent homelessness among veterans and ensures that when there is a new episode of homelessness, it is brief and non-recurring.
Even with these strengthened homeless prevention services, this designation does not mean a veteran in Connecticut will never again experience an episode of homelessness. Instead, it means that when a veteran enters an episode of homelessness, the state has the capacity and sustainable systems in place to quickly find and connect this veteran to the assistance needed for him or her to achieve stable, permanent housing. The state’s network of partners are continually identifying veterans who are experiencing homelessness, rapidly providing them with interim housing when necessary, and placing them into permanent housing with the appropriate support services within 90 days.
Connecticut has achieved this goal through the coordinated leadership of the Reaching Home Campaign’s Veterans Workgroup, a collaboration among key stakeholders around the state, which includes VA Connecticut Healthcare System (VACT), the Connecticut Department of Housing (DOH), the Connecticut Veterans Project (CTVP), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Hartford Field Office (HUD), Connecticut’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grantees, the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness (CCEH), the Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs (DVA), the Partnership for Strong Communities (PSC), the Connecticut Department of Correction (DOC), and the Connecticut Department of Labor (DOL) – all working together with other local community providers.
“Connecticut has a long history of ‘Serving Those Who Served,’ dating back to 1864 when the doors to the first Veterans home opened in Darien,” Connecticut Department of Veterans’ Affairs Commissioner Sean M. Connolly said. “Today’s announcement follows in that same tradition of commitment to our Service women and men through the continued determination of our state leadership putting Veterans first and the vital collaborative relationships between other state and federal entities. This is an incredible victory for Connecticut Veterans.”
This accomplishment is the result of over two years of successful collaboration to enhance Connecticut’s homelessness response system for veterans. Through vastly improved data collection and analysis, streamlined referral protocols, coordinated outreach, a new interim housing system, reformed housing assistance programming, bi-weekly reporting, and targeted resources, Connecticut has reinvented its system for assisting veterans who experience homelessness. These procedures have resulted in veterans having a permanent home within 90 days, with a safe place to stay in the interim. The greatest asset to this effort was the dedicated front-line staff who made this new system a reality with their hard work to rapidly connect with veterans and put them on the path to housing.
Connecticut has been a national leader in the housing arena, recognized for its work to prevent and end homelessness, as well as expanding affordable housing opportunities across the state. Since 2011, together with the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority (CHFA), the state has created 7,551 affordable units with another 2,570 affordable units currently under construction, and funding commitments are in place to create another 5,730 affordable units. The state’s investment in affordable housing totals over one billion dollars – a stark representation as to the high level of commitment being made to prevent and end homelessness, while ensuring that every resident has access to secure, safe, and affordable housing.