WASHINGTON, April 26, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans has announced that President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have been selected as recipients of the 2012 Jerald Washington Memorial Founders' Award, the highest honor bestowed by the nation's homeless veteran assistance community.
President Obama is the first person to receive the award more than once. He was honored in 2009 as the first president in U.S. history to make ending veteran homelessness a priority of his administration. Within months of that event, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki announced the "Five-Year Plan to End Veteran Homelessness," an ambitious initiative to ensure veterans in crisis will never again be left to fend for themselves on the streets.
By June 2010, every member of the president's cabinet had signed onto "Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness," the nation's first comprehensive blueprint for multi-agency cooperation to end all homelessness in America. That historic document incorporated Secretary Shinseki's Five-Year Plan, which calls for increased access to housing, health care, income supports and homelessness prevention assistance for veterans and their families.
"Since the announcement of the Five-Year Plan, President Obama has consistently demonstrated his commitment to ending veteran homelessness in his budget requests to Congress," said Patrick Ryan, Chairman of the NCHV Board of Directors. "His budget submission for FY 2013 brings the nation to within reach of that goal. Secretary Shinseki and Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan have dramatically improved the systems in place to help veterans in crisis; and the steady decrease in the number of homeless veterans since 2009 is a testament to the president's leadership."
According to the most recent Annual Homelessness Assessment Report to Congress (December 2011), there were 67,495 homeless veterans on a single night in January 2011. That represents a decline of more than 56% since the president was sworn into office.
"By any account, a tremendous achievement," said John Driscoll, NCHV President and CEO. "And we're not yet at the midway point of the Five-Year Plan. The president's FY 2013 budget request would bring the number of HUD-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers to 60,000, the number needed to end chronic homelessness among veterans with serious mental illness and other disabilities."
It would also triple the amount of funding to help at-risk veteran families avoid homelessness, and provide rapid rehousing assistance for veterans working their way out of homelessness. For the second straight year, President Obama's budget request provides record funding for the VA Grant and Per Diem Program, which provides transitional housing, health services, employment preparation and job placement assistance to more than 30,000 homeless veterans each year through local integrated service delivery systems.
"Under the leadership of President Obama, we are witnessing unprecedented national unity in the campaign to end and prevent veteran homelessness," Ryan said. "The progress we have seen from the federal agencies, the Congress, the community partners NCHV represents, and the American people in just the last three years give rise to the expectation that this campaign will succeed."
First Lady Michelle Obama is being honored for exemplary leadership in launching Joining Forces, a national campaign to ensure military and veteran families receive the support they have earned and need to fully enjoy the peace and prosperity they served to protect. Thousands of local service providers, businesses, faith partners, colleges and universities, military bases, veteran service organizations and volunteers have answered the call, providing affordable housing, employment services, job placement assistance and access to family health care in communities across the nation.
During the first year of Joining Forces, more than 50,000 military spouses and veterans have entered employment. More than 1,600 companies have joined the campaign with a promise to hire another 160,000. Fourteen states have passed legislation accepting licenses from other states for military spouses who are required to relocate, and another 13 have proposed similar legislation.
The campaign will connect veterans with community health centers in areas that are under-served by the VA, particularly in rural areas. More than 150 medical schools, 500 nursing schools and 80 physician assistant programs have signed on to provide quality care to veteran families, with special training to care for those who have experienced traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This initiative will empower about three million health professionals to better serve veterans returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"The immediate impact of Joining Forces is remarkable," Driscoll said. "This really is where homelessness prevention begins. Local communities of care – involving businesses, the faith community, local government, community service providers, informed citizens, veterans and volunteers – can help veteran families before their hardships become too great to bear.
"In most cases, access to affordable housing, employment at a livable wage, and health services greatly reduce a family's risk of becoming homeless. Joining Forces is helping communities learn how to anticipate the need for and provide these critical supports."
For more information about the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans and our mission to end homelessness among veterans, visit our website at www.nchv.org.
The Home Depot Foundation, as part of their ongoing $30 million, three-year initiative to ensure all veterans have a safe place to call home, is sponsoring the 2012 NCHV Annual Conference for the second year, May 30 to June 1 at the Grand Hyatt Washington. To learn more about the 2012 NCHV Annual Conference visit http://www.nchv.org/annualconference.cfm. For more information on The Home Depot Foundation visit http://www.homedepotfoundation.org/.
SOURCE National Coalition for Homeless Veterans