City Officials Consider Progress in Ending Veteran Homelessness

Following Boston Mayor Marty J. Walsh’s pronounced commitment to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015 and chronic homelessness by the end of 2018, city officials said Boston has made “tremendous progress” towards its stated goals.

According to Sheila A. Dillon, Boston’s chief of housing, more than 450 veterans have been housed since July 2014. This figure builds upon advances from earlier this year in August when 367 veterans had been housed since July 2014, according to a city press release.

Walsh released an outline to achieve these targets, titled “An Action Plan To End Veteran and Chronic Homelessness in Boston: 2015-2018,” in June, which disclosed that 80 of the original homeless veterans still remained homeless at the time.

Considering that individuals continuously enter homelessness, Walsh’s action plan defines an aim of reaching a “functional zero,” at which no veteran is forced to sleep on the streets, any veteran’s homeless stint is rare and brief, and all currently homeless veterans are on a path to stable housing by 2015’s end.

“We are housing veterans, but the reality is, counting [homelessness] is like draining a bucket while it’s raining,” Dillon said. “It’s not a stagnant, steadfast number, as we have more homeless vets coming into the system.”


For her part, Barbara V. Trevison, director of communications at the Pine Street Inn shelter in Boston, said Walsh’s commitment has placed increased attention on homelessness.

“I think there is a really strong focus now, and there are a bunch of agencies, both providers like Pine Street, city agencies, [and] other agencies, that are working very closely together on this issue,” Trevison said.

As part of a national initiative to end homelessness in cities, the action plan also called for focus in four areas: immediate response upon entry into the homeless system, coordinated access between programs, rapid rehousing, and permanent housing support.

“We are working with several state and city agencies, so coordination coming together around this goal is challenging,” Dillon said. “Finding units that vets can afford is another challenge.”

The endeavor to end homelessness faced a setback in October 2014 when Boston’s largest homeless shelter, the Long Island Shelter located on an island in Boston Harbor, was forced to close when the bridge leading to the island was deemed unsafe for vehicles to cross.

During a historically snowy winter, local and temporary shelters compensated for the increased demand and worked to accommodate displaced guests, leading to some overcrowding.

The city has since erected and expanded a new shelter on Southampton Street to replace Long Island’s facility.

Trevison said the new shelter does improve the situation, but a high demand may arise as temperatures drop.

“This year, there has been a new city shelter that opened in the last few months that is certainly helping, but now as the weather is getting cold we expect to see a bigger influx of people,” Trevison said.

—Staff writer Sara A. Atske can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @sara_atske.


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