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Update on Mayor's Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness

Mayor Suthers gave an update on the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness at the Apartment Association luncheon on Thursday, May 18.

  • In 2014, the Whitehouse announced the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness – a call to action to mayors across the country to make a commitment to ending veteran homelessness in their cities.
  • On behalf of Colorado Springs, then-Mayor Steve Bach joined this effort.
  • When I took office in 2015, I was pleased to pledge my ongoing support.
  • By the end of 2015, our community came close to declaring “functional zero” - a condition in which no Veteran is forced to live on our streets, and homelessness, when it does occur, is brief, rare, and non-recurring.
  • However, due to the lack of low barrier shelter and available, affordable housing, we could not quite reach that mark.
  • Since then, the City has worked hard to address the shelter shortage.
  • Through the Springs Rescue Mission campus, we invested in the construction of more than 200 low barrier shelter beds along with supportive facilities (showers, laundry, storage, dog kennels) and other supportive services.
  • We have assembled the Continuum of care, to align service providers in a strategic effort to address the diverse needs of the homeless population.
  • I’m pleased to say that these community service providers – most notably, The Springs Rescue Mission, Catholic Charities, and Ecumenical Social Ministries - have really stepped forward to meet these needs.
  • Today, we can immediately shelter any Veteran in need.
  • But sheltering, while important, is a temporary service, and does not end homelessness.
  • That’s where our local landlords come in.
  • The City has funded about $250,000 per year for rental assistance to residents who are homeless and has prioritized Veterans for the assistance.
  • About 31 households were assisted last year and 23% of those were Veterans.
  • That’s progress, but folks; there is still a real need for affordable housing for veterans.
  • The number of homeless Veterans presenting in Colorado Springs has increased year over year since the launch of the Mayor’s Challenge
  • Our most recent Point in Time Count marks 198 veterans who are currently experiencing homelessness in our community. That is about an 18% increase from last year’s number.
  • This is due to a couple factors. First- because of better outreach, our community is better able to find homeless Veterans and connect them to services. Second, at least anecdotally, there is a sense that more homeless veterans are coming to Colorado Springs, perhaps due to a large military presence and Veteran-specific services here.
  • So while the challenge remains difficult, we have a strategy for addressing this need.
  • We will work with the Colorado Springs Housing Authority to direct housing vouchers and tenant based rental assistance to veterans experiencing homelessness.
  • As veterans are placed, they are supported by Rocky Mountain Human Services. We thank them for facilitating this effort through their Homes for All Veterans program.
  • We continue to seek participation from private, public and nonprofit housing providers and landlords to increase the number of available housing units.
  • As willing participants come forward with properties to fill this need, we will prioritize housing rehabilitation funding to providers who open units for Veterans.
  • We also look to maintain our number of shelter beds to ensure that as homeless Veterans are identified, they can also be immediately sheltered.
  • The City of Colorado Springs is not a service provider. But what we can do is bring together service providers like those I listed today, and beseech landlords like those of you attending today, to work together to address this vital need.
  • Thank you.  

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