The National Coalition for Homeless Veterans (NCHV) held its annual conference last month in Washington D.C. and the theme this year was “Driven by Data.” The theme was not only important, but also timely given grim numbers released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) stating that homelessness has risen 17% in the City and County of San Francisco and 43% in Alameda County since the last homeless count in 2017.
Despite these daunting statistics, there was a glimmer of hope: in this year’s homeless count, the number of homeless veterans dropped by another 14% in San Francisco. However, advocates at the conference were worried that this trend might not continue and that we could possibly see a rise in unsheltered veterans in the years to come.
“To continue seeing the decline in veteran homelessness, we still need to work on a few things,” said Tramecia Garner, Swords to Plowshares’ associate director for housing and residential programs. “We need to increase the amount of deeply affordable housing for individuals who are on fixed income like social security making approximately $1,000 per month or less. In addition, to this we need to focus on expanding senior-specific housing as our population continues to age and their needs change.”
During the conference, advocates attended workshops on housing challenges and solutions; promoting stability through employment and income; serving special populations; leveraging national programs to stimulate local innovation; policy and impact; program management; and how to stay informed with research, data, and trends. These sessions gave attendees the opportunity to learn about best practices and discuss the successes and challenges they have had serving homeless veterans in their communities.
“NCHV first came together in 1990 to address the lack of veteran-specific programs and help homeless veterans,” said NCHV co-founder and Swords to Plowshares’ Executive Director Michael Blecker. “Establishing NCHV and its annual conference gave service providers the opportunity to support each other, share best practices, and a chance to advocate on the hill. The conference also has been an important forum for nonprofit veteran service providers develop better relationships with their local VA medical centers and serve their veteran clients more effectively in their communities.”
Planning is already underway for next year’s national conference, which will be held again at the end of May in Washington D.C. For more information about this year’s event, please visit: http://nchv.org/index.php/news/headline_article/nchv19highlights/