Right now, in communities across our nation, there are men and women who wore our country’s uniform who don’t have a place to call home. Some fought in wars as far back as Vietnam or Korea, and some served more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. These brave Americans risked their lives for us and our freedom – yet tonight they won’t even have a roof over their heads.
To be clear, the vast majority of our veterans return home in good health and good spirits. They go on to build strong families and have successful careers. But when we have tens of thousands of veterans who don’t even have somewhere to go when it rains – that’s a stain on our nation.
Everyone who has served America deserves a home in America. And while we know that we’ll never be able to prevent every single housing crisis for our veterans, we also know that if we set up the right systems in our communities and devote enough resources, we can get our veterans and their families back into housing quickly – and permanently.
That’s why President Obama made this issue a governmentwide priority, cutting red tape and directing record funding and resources toward housing our veterans. As a result, we’ve made historic progress. Since 2010, we’ve housed nearly 230,000 veterans and their family members through housing vouchers from the Department of Housing and Urban Development and homelessness programs at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
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In addition, 570 state and local officials – including former Wichita Mayor Carl Brewer – have joined the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness. They’re committing to end veteran homelessness in their communities by the end of 2015, and they’re making great progress. Los Angeles housed more than 5,000 veterans last year alone. New York has cut the number of homeless veterans by more than half. New Orleans became the first major city in America to end veteran homelessness.
We want cities and communities across this country to follow New Orleans’ lead. That’s why the administration is making tens of millions of dollars of funding available months earlier than usual, so that more veterans can pay their rent and more communities can get veterans into housing. And it’s why, through Joining Forces – a nationwide initiative that we launched four years ago to honor and support our troops, veterans and their families – Blackstone and its portfolio hotels Hilton, La Quinta and Motel 6 are helping create kits that will include items such as furniture, appliances and other supplies to smooth the transition when our veterans move into their new homes.
We’re challenging all Americans to do their part to help meet this challenge. If you have relevant professional skills – if you’re a social worker, lawyer, accountant, nurse – offer your services pro bono. If you own or manage housing units, work with your local VA to find out how you can rent to those who need housing. For more information on how to get involved, go to JoiningForces.gov.
It’s going to take all of us working together to make sure that everyone who has served our country has a place to call home. But we know if we all do our part, then we can serve these men and women as well as they have served us.
Michelle Obama is the first lady of the United States. Jill Biden is the second lady.