Last month, homeless service providers, community outreach organizations and government agencies met at American Legion Post 471 in Iselin, N.J., to discuss best practices in housing veterans and keeping them off the streets.
"Housing Our Heroes" – hosted by the New Jersey State Parole Board, the Legion's Department of New Jersey, and New Jersey Department of Military and Veteran Affairs – facilitated communications among those in attendance to find ways to continue improving a homeless veterans problem that has gotten significantly better in the past three years.
Mark Walker, deputy director of the Legion's Economic Division, was the keynote speaker at the event. He was joined by New Jersey Department Commander Gene O'Grady, Past Department Commander Bob Looby, Post 471 commander Ronald Davie, and Paul McIntyre and Leonard Ward from the New Jersey State Parole Board.
The event focused on finding future solutions to the homeless veterans problem – whether it's providing them transitional housing, living stipends or additional permanent living options.
"Some estimates have found that veteran homelessness has gone down about 17 percent in the past three years," Walker said. "We're encouraged by those numbers, but we can't rest on our laurels. We need to find ways to reach the remaining veterans who are on the streets."
Housing Our Heroes is an event sponsored by the Department of New Jersey, New Jersey State Parole Board, and New Jersey Department of Military and VA. In its third meeting on Feb. 15, representatives from the various agencies, organizations and providers in attendance networked with each other, gave presentations and shared ideas on ending veteran homelessness.
Lead by heavy backing from the Legion's Department of New Jersey, New Jersey is one of the most proactive states in the fight against veterans homelessness. A consortium of around 140 agencies and outreach providers, including the Legion, are all actively confronting veterans homelessness in their state and finding ways to finally end the problem. Events like Housing Our Heroes facilitate the conversation.
"New Jersey is really doing some great things when it comes to veteran homelessness," Walker said. "The dialogue that is constantly ongoing in the state about the homelessness problem should be imitated in other parts of the country."