Veteran homelessness across the Lehigh Valley has been effectively ended.
That’s the word today from the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The announcement, from Lehigh County Office of Veterans Affairs Director Thomas Applebach, was made at a morning news conference attended by more than 40 persons outside the County Government Center.
The declaration means that the objectives of the federal Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness have been met.
Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski accepted the challenge in the fall of 2014. Applebach organized the first meeting of the Lehigh Valley Homeless Veteran Task Force in February 2015 to coordinate the efforts of various agencies and stakeholders to jointly solve the problem.
Applebach said, “The vision of Mayor Pawlowski and County Executive Tom Muller got the ball rolling. But as we began to organize the team, we quickly realized that this needed to be a regional effort as many homeless in the Lehigh Valley are transient between the urban areas of Lehigh and Northampton counties.”
Pawlowski said, “In June 2014, I signed onto First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Mayor’s Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. In announcing her challenge the first lady said the idea that anyone who has worn our country’s uniform spends their nights sleeping on the ground should horrify us. She was and is right. Our veterans fought for our freedom and they deserve our help when they need it most.”
The USICH declaration means that the Task Force has met the goal that veteran homelessness in the Lehigh Valley will be rare, brief and non-recurring. It also means that there is a repeatable process in place to quickly identify homeless veterans, screen them, house them, and provide supportive services under the federally-adopted Housing First model.