Building on his commitment to end homelessness in the City of Boston, Mayor Martin J. Walsh and the Department of Neighborhood Development today announced that since the inception of the Boston’s Way Home plan to end chronic and veteran homelessness, the City of Boston has housed more than 1,000 homeless veterans.
Over the past five years, the City has transformed its system so that every homeless veteran in Boston has access to shelter and a path to permanent housing. The City provides immediate shelter to any veteran sleeping on the street who wants it. As a result, Boston has the lowest rate of unsheltered homelessness of any major U.S. city, as well as one of the lowest rates of unsheltered veteran homelessness nationally.
“Our goal is to ensure that everyone in Boston has a place to call home,” said Mayor Walsh. “We are proud of the work our teams have done in ending homelessness among chronically homeless veterans, but there is still work to be done. This milestone shows our continued dedication to housing all veterans in the City who are in need.”
In 2016, the City was certified as having ended chronic homelessness among veterans. People who are chronically homeless have experienced homelessness for at least a year – or repeatedly – while struggling with a condition such as a serious mental illness, substance use disorder, or physical disability. The City is continuing to work towards ending all veteran homelessness in the City of Boston.
“Housing over 1,000 veterans is a huge accomplishment,” said Boston’s Commissioner of Veterans Services, Robert Santiago. “This milestone shows that the Mayor’s commitment to end homelessness among veterans continues to be a top priority. We strive to ensure all veterans experiencing homelessness in Boston have a path to permanent housing. Our office works to ensure veterans in the City of Boston are always supported — whether that’s mental health services, job opportunities, or vital housing supports.”
The Boston’s Way Home plan has resulted in a complete redesign of the way Boston offers services to homeless individuals. As part of Boston’s plan, the City is committed to a “Housing First” approach to homelessness. This approach is founded on the idea that everyone should have access to permanent housing without conditions such as sobriety, treatment, or participation in services. In this model, an individual’s entrance into the shelter system is also their entrance to a path toward permanent, stable housing.
“The New England Center and Home for Veterans is honored to be part of the Boston Homes for the Brave Team,” said Andrew McCawley, President and CEO of The New England Center and Home for Veterans. “Mayor Walsh’s leadership and the City’s close coordination of all the contributing organizations have made a real difference in the lives of veterans here in Boston. Over 1,000 veterans housed is a very impressive number, but what is most meaningful is the independence and dignity that this work returns to veterans.”
Veterans experiencing homelessness are on average 52 years old, and the majority are male. Many of these veterans served during the Vietnam War era, followed by Desert Storm and Operation Iraqi Freedom. The City serves veterans whose first year of service goes back to 1948, but have also seen veterans who have served as recently as 2013.
Veterans experiencing homelessness are housed through the work of the Department of Neighborhood Development working with a number of different City agencies, partner agencies and nonprofits. These agencies work together to identify every homeless veteran by name, and work one-on-one with the veterans to help them find housing resources in the Greater Boston area. Once housed, the organizations follow up with the veterans to ensure that they are able to remain in their units safely and securely.
Housing opportunities for veterans are made available from a number of different places, including through the Coordinated Access System, the City’s automated method of connecting Continuum of Care resources, available to the veterans with the greatest need. These can take the form of mobile vouchers or opportunities to move into existing affordable units. Other veterans receive U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers from the VA and the Boston Housing Authority which allow them to find their own apartments around Greater Boston. There are also some HUD-VASH programs that have existing units where resources are available to provide long term rental assistance and stabilization services. Veterans Welcome Home is another long term stabilization program that the City funds to provide both housing search and support services to the vets in greatest need. Many veterans also receive assistance from Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF). SSVF assists veterans in shelters around the city with many services, including housing search, and provides them with short term rental assistance when they move into their new units.
Creating new permanent supportive housing is an important component of the City’s plan to end chronic homelessness, in that it combines subsidized rental housing with individualized support services so that people with complex health issues can receive the assistance they need to stay housed. The services are designed to build independent living skills and to connect people with services such as community-based health care, help with mental health issues, substance use counseling, and employment services.
To aid in the effort to end homelessness in Boston, in 2018, Mayor Walsh announced the launch of Boston’s Way Home Fund, which has a goal of raising more than $10 million over a four year period to create 200 new units of supportive, sustainable, long-term housing for chronically homeless men and women. After one year, the fund has raised more than $6 million to support this effort.