Veteran Homelessness Hits Zero in Las Cruces
“Las Cruces is the first city in New Mexico, and only a handful in the country, to end veteran homelessness,” announced Mayor Ken Miyagishima at a news conference today.
On June 4, 2014, First Lady Michelle Obama announced the “Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness” by the end of 2015. Mayor Miyagishima accepted the challenge and according to the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope (MVCH,) during Fiscal Year 2014-2015 that ended June 30, the agency served 298 homeless and near-homeless veterans, and housed 79 veterans – 70 male and 9 female. MVCH focused on a housing preference for veterans in each of the nine housing programs it offers.
“The Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, my office and the citizens of Las Cruces committed ourselves to this cause, and through hard work and determination, we celebrate reaching the goal earlier than called for. Ending veteran homelessness is important for one simple reason: Veterans fought for our freedom and our way of life, and it is now our turn to fight for them,” said Mayor Miyagishima.
Functional Zero was achieved after the MVCH identified veterans experiencing homelessness. Las Cruces no longer has veterans experiencing unsheltered homelessness. They are receiving shelter at Camp Hope, the Gospel Rescue Mission and/or services from the Community of Hope.
According to Nicole Martinez, executive director of the Mesilla Valley Community of Hope, “The MVCH has resources, and a plan and timeline for providing permanent housing, adequate levels of resources, and appropriate plans to ensure housing stability. And MVCH’s housing placement rate for veterans is higher than the number of veterans needing housing between now and December 2015.
Additionally, an employment endeavor for homeless and formerly homeless veterans was created to help connect veterans with local employers to ensure they have a sustainable housing plan that includes income. Mayor Miyagishima, Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD–VASH) representatives, and the community at large have been supportive by donating time, furniture, and financial support to make ending veteran homelessness a reality.
MVCH staff is working diligently to provide each veteran with housing and wrap-around services that is structured to the particular needs of the veteran.
MVCH realizes that there will continue to be homeless veterans, but Functional Zero means that MVCH has the resources to house any veteran that becomes homeless within 30 days. “MVCH continues to strive to reach actual zero for our homeless heroes and is grateful to all those who have supported this endeavor, including the veterans who are willing to take a chance on the services provided by MVCH,” Martinez said.