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Report: Homeless rate down 8 percent in Virginia

Gov. Bob McDonnell announced today the state is making significant headway toward the goal of reducing statewide homelessness. Citing data collected by local Continuum of Care groups across the Commonwealth, compiled by the Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development and the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness, the governor announced that overall homelessness has declined 8 percent from 2010 to 2012 and for families the reduction has been even more pronounced, an 11 percent reduction.  Additionally, there has been a drop of 36 percent in the number of people experiencing chronic homelessness in Virginia. 

“Affordable and safe housing is a fundamental component of healthy and prosperous communities,” said McDonnell. “And though we still have much more to accomplish toward our goal of reducing homelessness, we should be encouraged that the strategic policies we’ve implemented, along with our partners, yield real and lasting results. The significant decline in individual, family and chronic homelessness rates represent not just a policy success but also the peace of mind of hundreds of Virginians who no longer wonder where they will sleep tonight. Every Virginian deserves a safe, warm and secure residence to call their own.”

Early in his administration, McDonnell issued Executive Order 10 creating a housing policy framework — including policies to more effectively address the issue of homelessness. The resulting Homeless Outcomes Recommendations Report set the goal of reducing overall homelessness by 15 percent by 2013. The successful reduction of homelessness can be largely attributed to the shift in focusing resources to rapid re-housing — moving people into permanent housing more quickly while providing appropriate services through community resources.

The collaborative efforts of many at the state and local level working through private and public agencies and organizations have provided the structure for this successful effort. Senior Economic Advisor Bob Sledd and Dr. Bill Hazel, Secretary of Health and Human Resources, spearheaded the Homeless Outcomes Advisory Committee, which identified five primary goals to reach the targeted reduction in homelessness.

The reductions in homelessness noted earlier have resulted from shifting some state resources from traditional shelter services to rapid re-housing. Additional resources were provided in the FY 2013 budget for rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing. A partnership with the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness and the National Alliance to End Homelessness has also helped transform Virginia’s approach to address homeless services. Of particular interest for Governor McDonnell has been the status of veterans experiencing homelessness. Between 2011 and 2012 there was a 7 percent reduction in the number of veterans experiencing homelessness which was supported by increased resources to the veteran population including Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers.

The 2012 Governor’s Housing Conference, being held in Roanoke this week, is about embracing new visions for housing and communities across the Commonwealth.  Access to affordable housing is essential to reducing and eliminating homelessness. This year’s conference will include in-depth sessions for advanced, seasoned professionals, as well as policy-focused sessions that address the goals and outcomes of the Governor’s Housing Policy.

Augusta Health Augusta Free Press Kris McMackin CPA
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