Zero:2016 Press Release

For Immediate Release December 16, 2015

Bethesda Cares Media Contact: John Mendez (former USMC) john@bethesdacares.org, 301-907 9244

Montgomery County, Maryland Ends Veteran Homelessness by Reaching Functional Zero
As of December 15, 2015, Montgomery County has reached its goal of ending homelessness for County veterans by achieving a “functional zero” level through housing 54 veterans this year to date and an anticipated total of 58 veterans by the end of 2015.

This achievement is due to the dedication of a robust local public-private partnership that guided the County’s participation in two national campaigns that provided technical support and shared of best practice methods: the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness led by First Lady Michelle Obama, as well as the Zero: 2016 Campaign.

The Zero: 2016 movement, coordinated by Community Solutions with coaching from the Corporation for Supportive Housing, consists of 75 communities working to end Veteran and chronic homelessness by the end of 2016. The national effort supports participants in optimizing local resources, tracking progress against monthly housing goals, and accelerating the spread of proven strategies, such as those implemented through the Mayors Challenge. Montgomery County was selected for Zero: 2016 through a competitive, national application process.  The county’s data has been submitted to both campaigns for review and certification.
Functional zero is a key component to ensuring every veteran in the community has a permanent home. In Zero: 2016, functional zero is reached when, at any point in time, the number of veterans experiencing literal homelessness, both on the streets and in shelters, is no greater than the county’s monthly veteran housing placement rate.

According to Community Solutions, people experiencing homelessness are three times more likely to die than the general population across all age groups, often from treatable and preventable illnesses. A study commissioned by the nonprofit found that on average, taxpayers save an average of $13,000 per year for each person moved into permanent housing. This cost savings is the result of reduced costs in emergency services, such as emergency health care, emergency mental care, and jail, all of which are associated with homelessness.

Montgomery County led local efforts to end Veteran homelessness in partnership with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) DC Medical Center, the County’s Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Housing and Community Affairs, Housing Opportunities Commission, Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (MCCH) and Bethesda Cares, among other agencies serving Veterans.

This achievement was made possible through a $500,000 commitment by the County supplementing existing resources from the VA to ensure all identified veterans, especially those with the highest vulnerabilities, are supported with appropriate housing placements.

“Housing every identifiable homeless veteran in Montgomery County has always been and continues to be one of my top priorities,” said Councilmember George Leventhal, who serves as chair of the Council’s Health and Human Services Committee. “Montgomery County now has a coordinated and efficient system, which has been developed with our community partners, to ensure that every veteran in our County has access to the supports needed to move quickly from homelessness to permanent housing. Providing a stable home for our veterans is simply the right thing to do for those who have sacrificed so much to our country.”

“We are excited that Montgomery County has achieved functional zero for veteran’s homelessness,” said Uma Ahluwalia, Director of Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services. “With the wonderful collaboration of our public and private partners and steadfast leadership from our policy makers, we can safely say today that any veteran experiencing homelessness in our County will find the experience to be brief and non-recurring!”

MCCH received $300,000 in County funding to create a new permanent supportive housing program called Operation Homecoming. Operation Homecoming has the capacity to support 15 single adult veterans and 5 families with a veteran head of household who are deemed the most vulnerable in the County. Executive Director Susie Sinclair-Smith said, “No veteran who has served our nation should ever experience homelessness. Targeted efforts, dedicated resources and the political will were the keys to successfully reaching this milestone goal. We look forward to the lessons learned from serving veterans to pave the way for ending homelessness for other targeted groups
including youth and chronically homeless individuals.”

Bethesda Cares received $200,000 in County funding to create a rapid re-housing program, which has the capacity to support 15 veterans (both individuals and families). “While we are celebrating this huge achievement with our partners, we are so grateful that those who have served their country now have a place to call home. It has been our honor and sacred duty,” reflected Executive Director Susan Kirk.

About MCCH: Montgomery County Coalition for the Homeless (MCCH) provides solutions in Montgomery County to ensure that homelessness is rare, brief and nonrecurring. Our vision is to build a community where everyone has a safe, stable, and affordable place to call home. Visit www.mcch.net for more information.

About Bethesda Cares:  Bethesda Cares is a community outreach program whose mission is to prevent, ease and end homelessness in Montgomery County. Visit www.bethesdacares.org for more information.
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