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December 22, 2015

Date: December 22, 2015
Contact:  Dennis Gaffney 
518-434-5076 (wk) 518-281-7252 (cell)

For Immediate Release

ALBANY, NY--The City of Albany and numerous dedicated community homeless service providers have been recognized by First Lady Michelle Obama and top federal agencies for meeting the Mayor’s Challenge To End Veteran Homelessness by ensuring that all homeless veterans have quick access to housing services. Albany is one of only 19 cities across the country to receive the recognition; 4 are in the Capital Region.

“We are proud of this recognition and the work we have done, yet we know that our efforts to end homelessness among veterans will continue in the days and years ahead,” said Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan. “We are resolved to make sure that homelessness among veterans will remain infrequent and short-lived.” 

The letter to Mayor Sheehan said that the City had “effectively ended homelessness among Veterans” and was sent by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Department of Veterans Affairs. First Lady Michelle Obama wrote: 

“I am thrilled to congratulate the City of Albany on the extraordinary achievement of ending veteran homelessness… . Thank you for your leadership — and that of your colleagues in Albany — for the work you are doing and will continue to do. I am so proud of your city’s commitment, dedication, and resolve to reach this milestone, and I am grateful for all you have done for America’s heroes.”

Of 34 homeless veterans identified as homeless during counts of homeless veterans in December 2014 and January 2015, 33 had been housed by the spring of 2015. The effort in Albany was led by the Albany Housing Coalition and the City of Albany Community Development Agency and included the following community partners: CARES, Homeless and Travelers Aid Society (HATAS), the Homeless Action Committee, Catholic Charities, Soldier On, the Veterans Administration, the Albany Housing Authority, Heroes at Home, the Albany Damien Center, Interfaith Partnership for the Homeless, and the Capital City Rescue Mission.

Since 2014, Albany representatives worked in coordination with community partners on a monthly basis to reach what is known as “functional zero.”  Functional Zero is defined as having a system of services, resources and housing in place to respond quickly and effectively to prevent and end homelessness among veterans. 

“This is a remarkably diverse working partnership and I thank all who have committed their resources to the work that remains," said Joseph Sluszka, Albany Housing Coalition's Executive Director.

“As we celebrate the holidays, I am humbled by these incredible members of our community who have worked so hard to make a difference in the lives of homeless veterans,” said U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko.  “Veterans fight battles for our country, to protect our freedom. They ought not come home to fight another battle to find shelter. I am thankful for what Mayor Sheehan has done, and look forward to continuing to work with her to serve our nation’s veterans.” 

“What has been done regionally in this campaign, and here in Albany, serves as a reminder that good government, working with dedicated community groups, can truly serve those who have served us so well,” said NY State Senator Neil Breslin. “I applaud this ongoing effort to end veteran homelessness — and this proud achievement.”   

"Our veterans’ commitment and dedicated service to our country should not result in a lack of access to housing when they return home. I applaud the City and County of Albany in ensuring all homeless veterans have access to these essential housing services and am delighted that the White House recognized our community's work on this issue," said Assemblymember Patricia A. Fahy (D-Albany).

“Congratulations to all of the community partners in the City of Albany as collectively we have achieved a goal that is more than worthy of achieving --  preventing Veterans homelessness,” said Albany Assemblymember John T. McDonald III.  “This is another fine example that the resources we have here in the Capital City are working cooperatively across many disciplines to make sure that no veteran is homeless. Still, there is much more to do as it comes to jobs and permanent housing and I as well as many of our community partners remain committed to even greater success in the future. It is the least we can do for those who have served our country.” 

“By working together we have made significant progress in making sure those who bravely serve their nation receive the services and access to housing they deserve,” said Albany County Executive Daniel P. McCoy. “The county will continue to work with partners to provide services and identify veterans in need of housing assistance.”      

“Albany's success in ending veteran homelessness proves that dedicated public-private partnerships can achieve goals many thought impossible," said Holly Leicht, HUD Regional Administrator for New York and New Jersey. "Reaching this milestone required the commitment of Mayor Sheehan and her staff, the leadership and creativity of the Albany Housing Coalition and local not-for-profits, and the targeted resources of HUD and the VA. Today's historic accomplishment was truly a team effort." 

The announcement is the culmination of efforts that began in earnest when Mayor Sheehan signed on to First Lady Michelle Obama’s Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness in November 2014, which calls on mayors to forge partnerships and commitments to end veteran homelessness across the U.S. by the end of 2015.  The call to action was first announced by First Lady Michelle Obama and echoed by the Secretaries of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs, the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), and by the National League of Cities. The effort included a number of notable firsts among federal agencies in fighting veterans homelessness, including:

  • A housing-first approach
  • Increasing early detection and access to preventive services
  • Funding for VA social workers to aid homeless vets
  • Inter-agency collaboration between HUD and the VA