The mayors of St. Paul and Minneapolis gave themselves a year on Friday to end veteran homelessness in the Twin Cities.
The deadline coincides with a friendly competition between the Twin Cities, Des Moines and Columbus, Ohio, to eliminate homelessness by January 2015. Officials said at a news conference Friday that, at last count, there were fewer than 200 homeless veterans in Hennepin and Ramsey counties.
That relies on an annual “point-in-time” survey of veterans living on the streets, in shelters or transitional housing. The total in the state was 349 in 2013, down from about 600 in 2010.
“There is hope,” said Scott Roberts, a formerly homeless veteran at Friday’s event. “It seems hopeless when you’re living in your car and it’s cold outside, but with the resources available … everything’s possible.”
Most of the success has relied on federal investment in housing vouchers, coupled with services from the Department of Veterans Affairs. To meet the goal, Cathy Ten Broeke, state director of Prevent and End Homelessness, will gather stakeholders to map out a path and determine what barriers currently exist.
“Really, what it takes to build hope is home,” Ten Broeke said. “We now have new federal resources that are coming to communities all over the country that are creating home.”
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman said he was inspired by the mayor of Salt Lake City, who engaged in a similar competition with Phoenix.
“Like we always do in Minnesota, we’ll be damned if we let somebody else in Phoenix or Salt Lake be better than us,” Coleman said. “They may be first, but we’re going to launch an effort.”
Coleman was joined by Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, who said veteran homelessness in Hennepin County has decreased 52 percent between 2009 and 2013.