LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) -- Lexington is the first city in Kentucky to effectively end veteran homelessness, Mayor Linda Gorton announced on Thursday.
The United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs verified and affirmed on March 21, 2019, that Lexington-Fayette Urban County has created a system and infrastructure to make veteran homelessness “rare, brief, and non-reoccurring.”
Since then Lexington Mayor Jim Gray accepted President Barack Barack Obama’s challenge to end veteran homelessness in 2014, the City’s Office of Homelessness Prevention and Intervention, and the providers of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Continuum of Care, in partnership with HUD and the VA, have created a coordinated system to identify, assess, connect and permanently house veterans experiencing homelessness.
Gorton says the announcement means Lexington is ready to help any homeless or at-risk veteran who is made known to them.
“It means so much to know we are helping find homes for women and men who have given so much to our county,” she said. “Congratulations to the social workers, outreach workers and homeless system leaders who work day and night to find and nurture relationships, and to remove barriers that previously kept veterans from permanent places to call home.”
This designation does not mean no veteran will ever become homeless in Lexington, the mayor said. “But veterans who do experience homelessness, or are at-risk of homelessness, will get the support they need to quickly obtain a permanent home.”
At the press conference, U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie stated, “We know one entity cannot solve Veteran homelessness, it’s the collaborative work from partner providers, and federal, state and local leaders that make the goal a reality. Congratulations to everyone who made this possible for the women and men who bravely served our country.”
He added, “Effectively ending homelessness is not a small task, but the Lexington Continuum of Care proves it is possible with an all hands-on deck approach.”
Lexington is the only city or county in Kentucky that meets the strict data-driven criteria and benchmarks outlined by the federal government for creating an effective end to homelessness for veterans.
Sixth District Congressman Andy Barr, R-Lexington, applauded the efforts, saying, “As a member of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs, I will continue to support the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s VA Supportive Housing and other veterans assistance programs that work to get our veterans off the street. My office is committed to partnering with the Mayor and her staff to help in these efforts.”
Lexington officials say in 2014, there were 203 veterans found to be experiencing homelessness in the annual homeless point-in-time count, compared to the 78 found in 2019. Twenty-one 21 were living unsheltered in 2014, compared to zero in 2019.