Connecticut officials say they ended chronic homelessness among veterans this month, making the state the first in the nation to reach the goal of finding housing for all struggling former service members.
The announcement Thursday came during a visit by Veterans Affairs Secretary Bob McDonald to the state Capitol. Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy called the accomplishment welcome news for the region's veterans and for his entire state.
"We established this bold goal to end homelessness among our veterans not because it's good for our economy and makes communities stronger, but because it's morally right," he said in a statement.
The most recent counts from the Department of Housing and Urban Development estimate about 50,000 veterans living on the streets, but the Connecticut announcement is the latest in a series of high-profile success stories from VA officials about the progress being made to reduce those numbers.
In June, officials in Houston announced they had effectively ended veteran homelessness in their city through a series of new support services and housing initiatives. Earlier in the year, leaders in New Orleans, Salt Lake City and Phoenix announced similar success.
VA officials six years ago announced plans to end chronic veterans homelessness across America by the end of 2015, and to put in place a nationwide network of aid programs to ensure struggling veterans are put in new homes within days of facing housing problems.
McDonald called the issue "an ongoing challenge" for the country, even as the number of homeless veterans continues to drop.
"Americans understand and believe, as I do, that no one who has fought for this country should have to fight to keep a roof over their head," he said in a statement. "We will keep at it because that is what the men and women who have served our nation have earned and deserve."
Since 2010, the number of homeless veterans has been reduced by more than 25,000 individuals, according to HUD and VA estimates.
That's in part due to the federal budget for veterans homelessness assistance programs nearly tripling in recent years, from $2.4 billion in fiscal 2008 to a proposed $7 billion for fiscal 2016. But outside advocates have also praised federal officials for building stronger partnerships with community leaders and resources to address the problem.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.