On Wednesday, the Nation will come together to honor those who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces. The day will be marked with memorial ceremonies and speeches, and many workers and students will have the day off from work or school.
It is a time that I reflect on those who served, and remember what brought me to Cornerstones—a place of hope for many veterans’ and their families.
Growing up in a military family—the oldest of five Navy “brats”— instilled in me the importance of service and the power of community.
My father was in the submarine service; when he went out to sea it was for up to 6 months at a time, with no communication in between. Mom filled the void with pot luck dinners and shared vacations with other Navy families who are lifelong friends to this day.
As kids, if we got into trouble, we were as likely to be corrected by the Admiral’s wife or the duty officer as my parents. My mother counseled younger wives struggling to manage finances and babies; just as she had been counseled. It took a village; it worked.
Change was a constant, but I never doubted my family would be safe and secure. Moving vans and suitcases were way of life, but I always knew they would be unpacked at our next home.
Knowing that there are veterans—men and women who have served our country, who are without a home, or whose service resulted in trauma or medical need that has left them without supports is a tough thing to comprehend.
The special camaraderie of life in the military taught me what community can offer to those in need. It is this memory, of community pulling together, that is ending veteran homelessness in our region.
The Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness was introduced in 2014 as a way to solidify partnerships and secure commitments to end Veteran homelessness from mayors across the country. Ending Veteran homelessness means reaching the point where there are no Veterans sleeping on our streets and where every Veteran has access to permanent housing.
Leading homeless service organizations such as Cornerstones and our many partners, re-tooled programs and systems to be more coordinated and overall more effective at finding our most vulnerable veterans. We’re focusing on taking the actions that have been proven to work, and as a result, we’re housing more veterans more quickly and helping them stay housed permanently.
Cornerstones served 49 homeless Veterans in the past year. There are currently only 17 known homeless Veterans in Fairfax County’s homeless system and they all have housing plans at this time. As I am writing this, we have zero homeless Veterans in our programs.
The efforts we are making to find and house our homeless Veterans are working.
These same strategies will work to end homelessness for others in our community—men, women, children, elderly and disabled alike. Stable and affordable housing is a primary focus for Cornerstones. Moving people and families who are homeless from the Embry Rucker Shelter into supportive or permanent community housing through our proven Rapid Re-Housing program allows them to do the things that help them take control, and see a better future.
We know that ending homelessness is possible. I invite you to pause for your own reflection on Veterans’ Day, and consider what your role may be in ending homelessness in our community.
Fairfax To End Veteran Homelessness; Every veteran has a story, and a path to housing, The Connection, November 9, 2015
Office to Prevent and End Homelessness
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Mayors Challenge
United States Interagency Council on Homelessness