Leaders in Jackson and Wyandotte counties this week touted an achievement that “effectively ended” the problem of homelessness for veterans.
That doesn’t necessarily mean there are no veterans sleeping under an overpass in Kansas City this Thanksgiving, but it does mean 664 homeless veterans have been placed in permanent housing since January 2015, when dozens of public and private entities pledged to work on solving the problem.
And it indicates that the area has “sufficient resources to provide housing to every homeless veteran in Jackson and Wyandotte counties,” according to an announcement from Kansas City, Independence and Kansas City, Kan.
That was confirmed by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Evie Craig, executive director of the of reStart homeless shelter, said the designation means the community has the outreach programs, transition services, substance abuse help and a diversity of options for finding permanent housing for area veterans who are without a home.
The bureaucratic term is that the number of unsheltered homeless veterans has been reduced to “functional zero,” meaning there is a home for any homeless veteran.
The greater Kansas City area is the 56th community in the U.S. to achieve such a certification from the federal Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Matthew Doherty, executive director of the federal interagency council, congratulated the more than 60 agencies that make up the Greater Kansas City Coalition to End Homelessness for collaborating across the state line.
One creative program in the campaign to end veteran homelessness is the “tiny houses” initiative by the Veterans Community Project. It is in the midst of a public drive to furnish small houses in a “Veterans Village” at 89th Street and Troost Avenue.
Counting homeless veterans can be problematic. The Interagency Council on Homelessness says the number of veterans nationally without permanent housing, whether they are in shelters or not, dropped nearly 40 percent from 2011 to 2016, from 65,455 to 39,471.
The council said the number of homeless veterans in Missouri was 575 in 2016 and the number in Kansas was 169.
Craig said the next national initiative is to tackle youth homelessness.