Serving West Virginia's Homeless Veterans
A MESSAGE FROM WEST VIRGINIA DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS ASSISTANCE SECRETARY RICK THOMPSON
Serving West Virginia’s Homeless Veterans
CHARLESTON, W.Va. – With college football underway, bow hunting season just around the corner and the colors of autumn appearing on West Virginia’s mountainsides, it feels like fall has officially arrived. It’s hard to believe that in just a few short months the blistering cold of winter will again be upon us and hours spent out doors will become dangerous and unbearable. For this reason, it is more important than ever that we act quickly to ensure no veteran is left out on the street.
During the past few weeks, the Department has been working diligently to find new ways of combatting homelessness amongst veterans in our state. On August 21st, I attended the second annual West Virginia Homeless Veteran Summit and last week my staff and I delivered a presentation about veteran homelessness at the West Virginia Housing Conference. Both of these events helped open the lines of communication between state and federal agencies, nonprofit organizations and community leaders, and initiated a dialogue that I believe will lead to innovative solutions to this complex problem.
According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans, the most effective programs for homeless and at risk veterans are programs offered at the local level. Some of our most successful veterans programs are offered by communities and nonprofits. For example, this week, the Huntington West Virginia Area Habitat for Humanity will kick off a veterans housing initiative designed to help veterans own their own homes. This initiative, like many others, is possible only because of the continued support of numerous partners including the West Virginia Affordable Housing Trust Fund and the Collins Career Center. Likewise, the transitional unit established this year at our state’s Veterans Home was completed through the collaborative efforts of the Department of Veterans Assistance and the federal VA’s Homeless Resource Center in Huntington.
These are just a few examples of what West Virginia is doing to help eliminate homelessness among veterans and the early results are encouraging. Since 2010, there has been a 33 percent reduction among homeless veterans nationwide. Still, when even one man or woman who bravely defended this country is sleeping outside or on a friend’s couch, it’s unacceptable. In West Virginia, we will not stop working until every veteran has a place to call home.
Heather Ransom, 304-558-3661