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Phase one of a community collaboration to end veteran homelessness by 2015

FORT MYERS, Fla. (May 10, 2013) – On May 1, the Lee County Homeless Coalition, in partnership with the Lee County Department of Human Services, The Housing Authority of the City of Fort Myers, Veterans Affairs, American Red Cross and the American Legion Post 38 launched a campaign to house 50 homeless veterans within 100 days (by July 26). The Coalition and its partner agencies are taking a proactive approach to housing chronically homeless veterans— those who suffer from serious medical conditions, cost public systems the most money, and have typically been on the streets the longest— by organizing the complicated local housing system that takes far too long to navigate. In the previous 100 days, the average number of veterans housed per month was only seven.

To make the process of housing veterans simpler and faster, Lee County will be receiving 35 additional housing vouchers from Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH), and Lee County Homeless Coalition members are referring all veteran clients to Veteran Affairs outreach. Permanent housing options are being identified using a Housing First approach centered on providing people experiencing homelessness with housing as quickly as possible— and then providing services as needed. Lee County residents are encouraged to donate or collect gently used home furnishings so that no veteran moves into a permanent apartment without all the comforts of home.

Lee County is participating in a nationwide innovative 100-day challenge coordinated by the 100,000 Homes Campaign, the Rapid Results Institute, and several federal agencies, including Housing and Urban Development (HUD), U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH). The challenge aims to help communities with high concentrations of homeless veterans make progress toward President Obama’s goal of ending veteran homelessness by 2015. The Lee County Homeless Coalition aims to house 241 veterans by 2015.

“The clock is ticking, because homeless veterans face a higher risk of dying on our streets than others, especially as those from the Vietnam era continue to age. These men and women have survived war, but now their homelessness has become an issue of life and death. In many communities, it can take over a year to house a single homeless veteran. Our vets can’t wait that long,” said Beth Sandor, director of improvement for the 100,000 Homes Campaign.

The Lee County Homeless Coalition is a non-profit organization comprised of community and faith-based service providers, local businesses, people who are currently experiencing or who have experienced homelessness, and other advocates committed to ending homelessness. The Coalition’s mission is to advocate, educate and promote awareness of issues and obstacles facing homeless individuals in Lee County through community collaboration, planning, and implementing solutions.

To help or learn more, contact Janet Bartos, executive director of the Lee County Homeless Coalition, at 239-322-6600