Lynn has become the first city in Massachusetts to be certified by the federal government as having effectively eliminated homelessness among veterans. The official announcement confirming the certification was held in a ceremony Tuesday at the Lynn Museum.
The certification comes from the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs. It is the culmination of a yearlong process led by the Lynn Housing Authority & Neighborhood Development, in partnership with Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy and the Lynn Continuum of Care, a collection of agencies that coordinate services for the homeless.
“We are extremely proud to receive this designation from the federal government,” Kennedy said. “We embrace our responsibility to provide our veterans with the services and supports they need, with housing at the top of that list.”
Lynn’s certification indicates that all the homeless veterans in the city have been identified and housing has been provided to as many as possible. By having the availability of both rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing resources, as well as incorporating the principles of Housing First throughout the entire spectrum of housing assistance for a veteran, these systems have been streamlined to help a veteran experiencing homelessness to quickly secure permanent housing.
An equally critical part of the veteran housing assistance system has been the availability and provision of supportive services to help veterans maintain stability within their new homes. By implementing efficient homelessness response systems Lynn has ensured that any veteran’s experience with homelessness either now or in the future will be rare, brief, and non-recurring.
“We have proven that we have established an effective means of identifying homeless veterans and a delivery model for services,” said Harry MacCabe, director of Regional Housing and Services for LHAND.
The process for certification started last April with a meeting of the Continuum of Care’s Veterans Subcommittee. The goal was to design a plan to address veterans’ homelessness and map out a path from homelessness to rapid re-housing. This included creating a homeless veterans registry and addressing the barriers associated with housing, i.e. a lack of affordable rental units.
The veterans registry was created by September. Veterans identified as homeless had their needs assessed and were set up with referrals and other supports, with a goal of getting them housing as soon as possible. The LHAND submitted the plan to the Veterans Administration in October and it was approved in November. The notification of the functional-zero certification arrived in mid-February.
“This is a meaningful and significant accomplishment for our agency and all the partners who worked closely with us to see it come to fruition,” said Charles Gaeta, LHAND executive director. “Providing housing for those in need is at the crux of what we do on a daily basis. We are especially pleased to be able to assist those who have sacrificed for our country.”
MacCabe said the LHAND worked closely with the VA in Bedford throughout the process, which was funded through the LHAND’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. The SSVF was created in 2013 to provide housing stability to low-income veterans, as well as case management, financial assistance and other supports. Since the LHAND started receiving SSVF funding in 2013, it has helped 157 veterans obtain housing, including those assisted through the recent effort.
“Lynn serves as a shining example of what can happen when the right partners come together around the right strategies,” said Matthew Doherty, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. “Now that we know that we can end homelessness for veterans, we must act with urgency to end homelessness for everyone.”
“Ending veteran homelessness is a goal that every town and city should strive to achieve,” said U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton. “Lynn accepted the challenge, and I am proud that Lynn is receiving a ‘functional zero’ categorization for homeless veterans. I am committed to ensuring that every town and city in our district reaches this important objective to fully serve our veterans.”
“We salute the citizens of Lynn for being the first city in Massachusetts to effectively end homelessness among veterans,” said Kevin Casey, VA’s coordinator of services for homeless veterans in New England. “At VA, we work in partnership with organizations every day to help veterans exit homelessness as quickly as possible – and we will continue to work hard to help sustain the progress achieved and be of service to veterans who may need our help today and in the future.”
“I applaud the city and its citizens for their commitment to making sure veterans have a place to call home. I hope that other cities and towns across the Commonwealth will follow Lynn’s lead and work to end veterans homelessness in their communities,” said Francisco Urena, Mass. secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Services
“It is an honor to celebrate the great work of the City of Lynn in ending homelessness among veterans,” said Linn Torto, executive director of the state Interagency Council on Housing and Homelessness (ICHH). “The city has created the successful template and assembled the critical partners in this effort which will insure that none of our valued servicemen and women will be homeless in their great city.”
In addition to the VA, other agencies who participated in this program include: Affordable Housing Associates, City of Lynn Veterans Services, Greater Lynn Senior Services, Lynn Economic Opportunity, Lynn Shelter Association, Military Friends Foundation, Northeast Justice Center, and Veterans Northeast Outreach Center.