Veterans Day ceremony in New Castle, Delaware.

Delaware Proves Ending Veteran Homelessness Is Possible

I joined Vice President Joe Biden, Governernor Jack Markell and Senator Tom Carper to honor Delaware as the third state in our nation to effectively end veteran homelessness. The following is adapted from my remarks at a Veterans Day ceremony in New Castle.

Veterans Days is a special time to remember the brave men and women — but also the many more — who came home to civilian life. Whether it was for a single enlistment or for a full career, these men and women set aside their civilian careers to serve us in uniform.

And while we call them heroes, they saw themselves as simply doing their job, of quietly answering the call to serve honorably and faithfully. President Obama honored their service when he declared in 2010 that we would end veteran homelessness — not just reduce it — and that our work would not be finished until every veteran has a place to call home.

Taking action, HUD and other agencies have directly confronted the challenge to end veteran homelessness.

Since 2010, overall veteran homelessness has fallen by 47 percent, while unsheltered veteran homelessness has fallen by 56 percent. That’s great progress, but thousands of veterans nationwide are still on the streets or in shelters. We’ve got to redouble our efforts to get them and their families into homes where they have a fighting chance to rebuild their lives and become fully productive.

Delaware has effectively ended veteran homelessness — the third state to do this, and is leading the way for the other 47 states.

You accomplished this by doing what we’ve been doing in Washington — breaking down the barriers between jurisdictions, between private and public, by taking the initiative and collaborating for effective solutions.

We worked wonders when we combined forces to implement such HUD programs as Permanent Supportive Housing, Veteran Supportive Housing, and landlord recruitment. Then there are the spontaneous, improvised efforts that helped put Delaware over the top. I learned that Gene Dvornick, Georgetown town manager, created a wallet card with phone numbers for homeless veterans to call for housing. The State helped print the cards.

The Delaware Commission on Veterans Affairs turned the cards into posters. Law enforcement helped pass out the cards. Other towns put the posters and cards on counters in their buildings. And that’s just one of the things this state did to reach a goal that, just a few years ago, many people didn’t think was achievable — effectively ending veteran homelessness.

Thank you, Delaware, for leading the way. One of those helped by our combined efforts, Cecile, served in the Army for eight years yet found herself homeless afterwards. However, she was also determined to get help, and found it, through the HUD-VASH program. Counselors took her through different options, found her transitional housing, then an affordable apartment where she now lives. And she has a job. As she put it, if it weren’t for our combined efforts, she would still be living in her car.

But we can’t stop our efforts here. There are many more challenges ahead to fully repay the debt we owe to America’s veterans — help with jobs, education, health care and much more. And there’s no better place than this memorial park to reaffirm this commitment.

The success we’ve had ending veteran homelessness in Delaware — working together to reach this ambitious goal — demonstrates that we can resolve and succeed in ending all homelessness. Looking around at the many public officials, veteran organizations, volunteers and others assembled here, I know that we can overcome these challenges and get the job done.

I am grateful for your hard work, proud of everything we achieved together, and excited for the many more achievements that lie ahead. Again, thank you for making this day so special for me — and thank you for all you do to serve America’s veterans.

Veteran smiles at Veterans Day Ceremony in New Castle, Delaware.