A joint initiative of the National League of Cities and the Home Depot Foundation.
With the active draw-down of combat military forces overseas, the nation's cities and towns will in the coming years see an influx of returning armed forces veterans in search of jobs, homes, schools and medical facilities - in short, a place to put down roots and raise a family. Each of these veterans brings tremendous talents and gifts, and all of them will be in need of our welcome, our acknowledgment of their commitment to this country and our sensitivity to the needs that they and their families face as they return to civilian life.
The scale is impressive. There are more than 20 million veterans in the United States who have served their country since World War II. More than 2.3 million American military personnel have been deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or both during the past decade alone. However, the nation's veterans - those who give so much through their service - often face difficult challenges upon their return home.
Veterans return from their service changed by their experience to homes and communities that are likely to have also changed. Reintegrating into a community is further complicated when a veteran is dealing with a visible, or not visible, wound, injury or illness. For some, the transition is too much. Veterans equal 8% of the general population, yet they form 16% of the homeless population. Statistics from 2011 by the Department of Housing and Urban Development found 67,495 homeless veterans in communities across the county.
Without a stable, accessible and safe place to call home, veteran's needs are compounded. Employment opportunities and medical appointments are missed; mental health can deteriorate, increasing the likelihood of self-medication and substance abuse. At the most basic level, veterans without a home or without housing that meets their needs are unable to fully reintegrate and participate in their community. Successful reintegration requires a community to help veteran's access housing, education, employment, healthcare and other support opportunities.
Elected officials and municipal staff can leverage local, state and federal resources and provide critical leadership to support the work of non-profits, military service organizations, faith communities, educational institutions, local businesses and foundations to ensure success in the post-service lives of all veterans. To help local government officials be advocates for American military veterans and their families, NLC is dedicating resources in support of the work of the Home Depot Foundation to target the housing rehabilitation needs of disabled veterans.
Meeting the housing needs of veterans with disabilities is a first step towards successful reintegration into a community. Federal, state, and local resources can help, but they cannot do it alone. Partnerships with military service organizations, non-profits, faith communities, local businesses, educational institutions, and philanthropies are critical. The leadership and local knowledge of elected officials along with the support of municipal staff can mean the difference between success and failure.
The American Legion is the nation's largest wartime veterans service organization. The Legion is a nonpartisan, not-for-profit organization with hundreds of local legions across the county working to provide support to recovering wounded warriors and their families. The Legion raises millions of dollars in donations at the local, state and national levels to help veterans and their families. The organization belongs to the people it serves and the communities in which it thrives, and their success depends entirely on active membership, participation and volunteerism. Find information about American Legions near you.
As one of America's foremost veterans service organizations, AMVETS (or American Veterans) has a proud history of assisting veterans and sponsoring programs that serve our country and its citizens. Membership in AMVETS is open to anyone who is currently serving, or who has honorably served, in the U.S. Armed Forces from World War II to the present, to include the National Guard and Reserves. The assistance AMVETS provides to veterans and their families is most visible through their network of trained national service officers (NSOs) accredited by the Department of Veterans Affairs. Funded by the AMVETS National Service Foundation, these men and women can be found in close to 40 states, providing sound advice and prompt action on compensation claims at no charge to the veteran. In one recent year alone, AMVETS national service officers processed more than 24,000 claims that resulted in veterans receiving some $400 million in compensation. Find information about AMVET programs and service officers.
Disabled American Veterans
Disabled American Veterans (DAV) is a non-profit dedicated to improving the lives of America's disabled veterans and their families. Each year, DAV assists more than 200,000 veterans and their families with benefit claims from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. DAV volunteers provide veterans with transportation to VA medical centers and educate the public about the importance of services in place to support veterans. Find information about DAV offices near you.
Habitat for Humanity
As part of their Veterans Initiative, Habitat for Humanity, in partnership with The Home Depot Foundation, introduced their Repair Corps program. Launched in September 2011 at 36 affiliates nationwide, the program provides critical home repairs for veterans and is anticipated to come to more Habitat affiliates in 2012.
Military Warriors Support Foundation
Military Warriors Support Foundation offers a program that awards mortgage-free homes to wounded heroes injured during combat in Iraq and Afghanistan. The homes are for families who have severe and/or unique circumstances due to their injuries received while serving our country.
Operation Homefront provides a home repair program that offers assistance with unexpected, routine home repair in partnership with community members willing to donate materials and services. They also provide home modifications as needed by our injured service members.
Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA), a congressionally chartered veterans service organization founded in 1946, has unique expertise on a wide variety of issues involving the special needs of veterans who have experienced spinal cord injury or dysfunction. PVA uses that expertise to be a leading advocate for quality health care for their members, lead research and education addressing spinal cord injury and dysfunction, ensure benefits are available as a result of members' military service, and protect the civil rights and opportunities that maximize the independence of paralyzed veterans. Through their national network of chapters and benefit service offices in all 50 states, DC and Puerto Rico, PVA provides free, comprehensive benefits assistance and advocacy to paralyzed veterans, their families, and other disabled veterans. Find more information about PVA and the nearest chapter or benefit service office.
Purple Heart Homes
Purple Heart Homes, Inc. is dedicated to providing personalized housing solutions for Service Connected Disabled Veterans and their families. They provide at little or no cost to the veteran a "quality of life solution" that creates an injury specific, barrier free-living environment. These solutions can range from remodeling an existing home already owned by the veteran, to creating an entire living space from the ground up.
RenovatingHope provides basic housing rehabilitation services to those in need that have been unable to hire help and/or make the repairs to their homes themselves.
Semper Fi Fund
The Semper Fi Fund provides immediate financial support for injured and critically ill members of the U.S. Armed Forces and their families. Their programs provide support to all post 9/11 military members who serve or have served in support of Marine forces in a variety of ways including help with adaptive housing needs.
The Home Depot Foundation
The Home Depot Foundation's mission is to ensure that every veteran has a safe place to call home. To support their mission, they provide grants and volunteer resources to local and national nonprofit organizations who share a passion to serve U.S. military veterans and their families.
Veterans of Foreign Wars
For more than a century, the VFW has been leading efforts to serve military personnel, veterans and their families in communities across the country through college scholarships, educational outreach, youth activities, community volunteerism, employment services and support while seeking benefits. The VFW has a representative in every VA regional office to act as a liaison as a veteran seeks out benefits and provides claims assistance to separating military personnel at designated installations across the country. In addition, the VFW operates a 24-hour toll-free hotline for veterans with questions or concerns about their VA healthcare and benefits (1-800-VFW-1899). Find information about how the VFW can help veterans.
Vietnam Veterans of America
Founded in 1978, Vietnam Veterans of America is the only national Vietnam veterans organization congressionally chartered and exclusively dedicated to Vietnam-era veterans and their families. VVA engages with communities across the country through their 48 state councils and 650 local chapters. Find information about local VVA chapters.
Some states have housing programs that prioritize directly serving veterans and their families. There may also be state programs that can help finance the rehabilitation or new construction of housing for veterans. To learn more about what resources in your state may be available to help meet these needs, visit your state's equivalent of the Department of Veterans Affairs. For a list of state departments that serve veteran's needs, click here. In addition, contact your state's equivalent of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, frequently called a Department of Housing and Community Development. Information about state-level housing programs for veterans can also be found using the National Resource Directory (see below).
Community Blueprint Network
Administered by Points of Light, the Community Blueprint Network (CBN) was developed by a committed and expert group of over 55 veteran and military-serving organizations. The Network is a set of practices that address eight critical issue areas affecting veterans, active military and military families: housing and homelessness, education, employment, behavioral health, family strength, financial-legal services, reintegration and volunteering leading to community change.
Joining Forces Initiative
The Joining Forces Initiative started after the First Lady and Dr. Biden met with military families, learned about their successes and challenges, and made it their priority to support them. Joining Forces is a comprehensive national initiative to mobilize all sectors of society to give our service members and their families the opportunities and support they have earned. At a briefing held during NLC's Congressional City Conference in March 2012, Brad Cooper, executive director of the Joining Forces initiative, stressed that partnerships with municipal governments and community leaders are needed. Click here to read more about Mr. Cooper's briefing.
Joint Chiefs of Staff, Community Action Teams
The Joint Chiefs of Staff are working to connect returning veterans into their communities. To unite communities in support of returning veterans, the Office is encouraging the creation of community action teams to engage stakeholders around veterans needs for housing, education, employment and healthcare.
National Resource Directory
The National Resource Directory (NRD) is a government-sponsored web portal created to help wounded warriors, service members, veterans and their families and caregivers connect to services and resources that support recovery, rehabilitation and community reintegration. It provides access to help with housing needs and other services and resources at the national, state and local levels. The NRD was created collaboratively by the U.S. Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs and Labor and it contains information from federal, state and local government agencies; veterans service and benefit organizations; nonprofit and community-based organizations; academic institutions; and professional associations.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Veterans Assistance
HUD has a number of resources directly specifically to help meet the housing needs of veterans. From homeownership assistance to homelessness prevention, HUD can help veterans understand what resources are available and where in their community they can access them.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Housing Assistance
http://www.va.gov/homeless/housing.asp or http://www.benefits.va.gov/homeloans/
The VA offers numerous assistance programs for veterans, ranging for VA home loans to rental assistance for veteran families and housing vouchers for chronically homeless veterans.
U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)
The Obama Administration has established the goal of eliminating veteran homeless by 2015. This goal can be met if the resources made available by the Administration and Congress are properly utilized by cities and towns through strategic planning and leadership.
The housing needs of veterans are not all the same. Some veterans require long-term supportive services. Other veterans have more moderate needs, while some can live independently. The variety of needs requires creative solutions blending public and private resources.
Just as the housing needs of veterans vary, so do the resources available to communities. NLC's work on veterans housing will focus on identifying and replicating best practices used to meet veterans' needs effectively, efficiently and with all available resources. Below are a few examples from cities in Connecticut, Washington and Massachusetts.
|Veteran Manny Jimenez, with Dale Beatty of Purple Hearts Homes, on the construction site of his new home|
Glastonbury, CT (population ~34,500)
Project-Type: Private Financing/City In-kind contribution of land
Richard J. Johnson, Glastonbury Town Manager, (860) 652-7500,email@example.com
Vicki Thomas, Director of Communications, Purple Heart Homes, (203) 454-9952,firstname.lastname@example.org
The Town of Glastonbury is located about 40 miles northeast of New Haven, CT.
Manny's Place, a newly constructed home for disabled Afghanistan veteran, Marine Corps Corporal Manny Jimenez. Constructed on land donated by the town, the effort was driven by leadership from the town manager and council, the Rotary Club and Purple Heart Homes. Read more.
Port Angeles, WA (population 19,038)
Project-Type: Local, State, and Federal Public/Private Financing
Port Angeles is the largest city located in Clallum County, a rural and sparsely populated area west of Seattle. The county's population has more seniors and veterans than other counties in the state, due to its relative low cost of living and proximity to Joint Base Lewis McChord (JBLM). The base is one of twelve joint bases worldwide and was formally established in October 2010, when the Army's Fort Lewis was merged with McChord Air Force Base as part of the Department of Defense's Base Realignment and Closure process.
After talking with state officials and supportive housing specialists, the area's public housing authority, Habitat for Humanity, and a local community development corporation worked with city and county officials to use a variety of public and private funding sources to build a 28 unit development serving homeless veterans. Read more.
Hingham, MA (population 22,394)
Project-Type: Local, State, and Federal Public/Private Financing
Hingham is located 15 miles southeast of Boston, one of the nation's most expensive housing markets. After extensive talks with elected officials and town members, an area non-profit developer partnered with two public housing agencies and used local and state resources along with private donations to build a 6 unit development serving homeless veterans with disabilities.
Check back soon to learn how city and state officials supported this effort and what lessons you can use in your community to provide housing for disabled veterans.
The foreclosure crisis has created a myriad of problems for cities across the country. Foreclosed and abandoned properties create health and safety concerns, drag down surrounding property values, and drain public resources rather than contributing to the community's tax base. In the midst of these problems, many communities are finding innovative solutions to use the crisis as an opportunity to serve the housing needs of veterans.
Check back soon for more information and examples of how communities are partnering with financial institutions and using public and private resources to create opportunity in the face of unprecedented challenges.
Bringing Veterans Back into the Fabric of Our Communities (July 3, 2012)
On occasions like the 4th of July, the pride we have as a country becomes even more evident. But our nation's pride and gratitude for our veterans exists every day. The challenge for city leaders is to find tangible ways to direct those emotions in ways that best serve our veterans. There are cities already taking action.
"My pride is back": Ending the shame of Veteran homelessness (May 24, 2012)
The Opening Doors plan by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness outlines the federal government's strategic efforts to bring data-driven responses to prioritized populations. The work toward ending veteran homelessness is already showing promise. From 2010 to 2011, the number of homeless veterans fell by 11.5%, from 76,329 to 67,495. A renewed commitment by Congress and the Administration can claim some credit.
How Can Cities Best Help Disabled Veterans? (May 17, 2012)
During the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, more than 48,000 men and women have been injured. To put that in some perspective, this is about the same number of people living in cities such as Concord, NH, Salina, KS or Olympia, WA. With both of these wars winding down, veterans are in need of homes that allow them to become fully integrated into their communities. In Glastonbury, Connecticut, a national non-profit partnered with the Rotary club and city officials to bring together hundreds of volunteers to provide a new home for a Marine Corps Corporal disabled by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Afghanistan.
Partners Help Cities Serve Veterans (April 9, 2012)
Veterans of the U.S. armed forces are returning home in droves. Combat troops are withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan, and there are proposed reductions in personnel at overseas posts in Germany, among other places. For America's cities and towns this trend represents both an opportunity and a challenge. Fortunately, the nation's collective attention is focusing on the sacrifices and dedication of those who wear the uniform of the military services and their families.
NLC, The Home Depot Foundation Launch Project to Support Housing for Veterans (January 16, 2012)
As part of ongoing initiatives between NLC and The Home Depot Foundation, an NLC Capstone Corporate Partner, the two organizations will combine efforts to support housing programs for the nation's military veterans, especially those who are disabled. This investment will help build NLC's capacity to provide local officials with resources, best practices and learning opportunities focused on neighborhood-based housing rehabilitation and retrofitting initiatives addressing the needs of special populations, with a particular focus on military veterans returning from combat service and with disabilities.