Providing Safe and Healthy Housing to Veterans

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Providing Safe and Healthy Housing to Veterans

by Caroline Blakely, President and CEO of Rebuilding Together
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Caroline Blakely, President of @RebldgTogthr on the importance to provide #veterans w/ safe & #healthyhomes
Thursday, July 21, 2016 - 10:00am

In 2010, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) unveiled a strategic plan to move the needle on housing the nation’s homeless veterans. They set an ambitious goal – as a part of the Open Doors strategy – to have zero homeless veterans by the end of 2015. This concentrated effort has yielded some incredible results. As of January 2015, veteran homelessness had declined 36 percent since 2010, and unsheltered homelessness had fallen by 47 percent. While a powerful achievement, the goal housing all of our homeless veterans has fallen short. An estimated 47,700 veterans remain homeless on a given night.

Other federal, state and local efforts have had varying degrees of success, but much more work remains in order to ensure housing for all veterans and their families.

Popular doctrine on decreasing instances of homelessness – including veteran homelessness – has moved toward the Housing First model, whereby those people experiencing chronic homelessness are provided with “permanent housing directly and with few to no treatment preconditions, behavioral contingencies, or barriers.” However effective, this is still a reactive solution. There needs to be greater emphasis on housing solutions and strategies that ensure veterans and their families can remain safe, healthy and independent in the homes that they already own.

This is where the efforts of organizations like Rebuilding Together come in. We transform the lives of low-income veteran homeowners by improving the safety and health of their homes and revitalizing the communities where they live.

The need for affordable, safe and healthy housing for veterans is dire. According to the National Housing Conference and Center for Housing Policy:

  • Nearly 1.5 million veterans live in poverty, unable to afford critical home repairs or modifications.
  • Twenty-five percent of post-9/11 veterans return home with a service-connected disability, and face housing accessibility challenges as they transition from military to civilian life.
  • More than one in three post-9/11 veteran households is housing cost-burdened, paying more than 30 percent of monthly income toward housing costs, despite access to VA loans or other forms of assistance.

Rebuilding Together aims to amplify the efforts of federal programs, by bridging the gap in available services for our veterans. We offer assistance by working across the country to provide: home accessibility modifications and repairs, whole-home rehabilitation, and reconstruction and revitalization of nonprofits and community centers that serve veterans and their families.

Since 2007, Rebuilding Together and Sears have partnered through the Heroes at Home program to make veterans and their families’ homes safe and healthy.  We have helped transform the lives of 2,000 veteran homeowners. More than 40,000 volunteers have donated nearly 320,000 hours on projects, and our supporters have raised nearly $19 million though online and in-store donations. This summer, dozens of military family homes will be rebuilt thanks to the Heroes at Home program.

While the core efforts of Rebuilding Together’s partnership with Sears remains helping veteran homeowners, the Heroes at Home program is broadening the scope of our work, benefitting the facilities and nonprofits that serve veterans and their families, increasing the impact we have on the veteran community.

Among these projects is the Lowry Post 501 in Denver, Colorado, which is the largest VFW Post in the state with an active membership of 340 veterans. The post serves veterans’ communities throughout the Denver area offering advocacy and advice to disable veterans or those who have suffered adverse medical conditions as a result of their service. Through a Heroes at Home grant in late June, Lowry Post 501 received a new fence, many interior drywall and accessibility modifications, and a new mural on the building’s exterior.

Our veterans have sacrificed for their country and their families. We are honored to be able to serve those who have served us, both at home and around the world. We continue to create innovative housing solutions that encourage positive health and safety, and keeps our veteran at home.