Cooper Reports Progress In State Effort To Reduce Veteran Homelessness

Jun 29, 2018

North Carolina is having more success in its long-running battle to reduce homelessness among veterans.

Governor Roy Cooper announced in a news conference that the population of homeless veterans dropped 14 percent last year.

The news conference at RTI International at Research Triangle Park was part of a summit meeting of people fighting veteran homelessness across the state, and some were in the audience.

"These positive data points are the result of statewide efforts by many of you, working on the front lines. I appreciate all of you facing those challenges and I applaud your effort," Cooper said.

The drop in the number of homeless veterans was determined by an annual one-night count performed in communities across the country in January. The national tally hasn't been released yet.

After the Obama administration set a goal of ending veteran homelessness and boosted federal funding for that effort, North Carolina began a coordinated campaign that now includes the Department of Veterans Affairs, state and local officials, and non-profit groups.

That triggered several steady years of decline in veteran homelessness. The number ticked upward slightly in the January 2017 count, but all told the number has fallen 31 percent since 2011.

Still, experts at the summit warned that the fight will require more funding increases for needs like permanent housing.

"Without that, we could see the numbers start to tick back upward again," said Terry Allebaugh of the North Carolina Coalition to End Homelessness.

In this year's count, the state tallied a significant drop - 27 percent - in the number of chronically homelessness veterans. That's those who have been homeless for at least a year or repeatedly, typcially while fighting issues such as mental illness, a substance abuse disorder, or a physical disability.

Allebaugh, a long-time leader in the state-wide campaign, said the drop in chronic homelessness was the result of focusing intently on the problem and using high-labor tactics like visiting homeless camps again and again to talk with veterans.

The state also reported a 48 percent drop in the number of homeless vets in rural areas, and a 56 percent decrease among those living in unsheltered locations such as camps, abandoned houses or bridges.