First lady announces initiative to end veteran homelessness
June 4th, 2014
05:17 PM ET
8 years ago

First lady announces initiative to end veteran homelessness

Washington (CNN) - First lady Michelle Obama announced a new initiative at the White House on Wednesday to help end veteran homelessness across the country by the end of 2015.

The Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness is a call to action for mayors and other state and local leaders across the country to make a commitment to make sure all veterans in their communities have a roof over their heads.

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"So just like it's our country's duty to bring back all of our men and women from the battlefield, we've also got a duty to make sure that every single veteran has a place to call home when they get here and for the rest of their lives," said Obama.

Joined by acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Sloan Gibson and Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, the first lady announced the commitment of 77 mayors, 4 governors and 4 county officials already onboard to help meet that goal.

"These leaders are best equipped to tackle this challenge because they know their communities inside and out. They are in touch with service providers who know these veterans by name," the first lady said. "They aren't just going to address veteran homelessness in their cities and states, they are going to end it."

Obama urged more leaders to get involved and played on the competitive nature of the country's mayors.

"I want to know if more mayors can challenge each other on this issue," Obama pushed. "Can you challenge a neighboring mayor or governor to see who can get all their vets into housing first?"

Homelessness among veterans has declined each year since 2010 but there were still nearly 58,000 homeless veterans in the United States at the start of 2013 accounting for just over 12 percent of all homeless adults, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The first lady noted that of the total veteran population, the percentage who are homeless only reaches 0.3 percent but even that was too high.

"Even one homeless veteran is a shame. And the fact that we have 58,000 is a moral outrage," said Obama.

"Tens of thousands of veterans who risked their lives for our country are sleeping in their cars, or in a shelter, or next to a subway vent." Obama continued. "We should be horrified because that is not who we are as Americans."

Veteran Chris Fuentes, who introduced the first lady, found herself living in her car after returning from serving in Iraq and finding her job gone. Her baby girl had to live with Fuentes' mother as Fuentes searched for some stability.

She said she received word from another veteran of the programs provided by the VA that helped her get settled in a new home and reunite with her daughter.

"These programs give veterans a second chance at life and allows them the opportunity to not worry about where they might have to lay their head at night," said Fuentes.

This announcement comes at a time when both the VA and the White House have been under fire for allegations of mishandling the VA medical care system leading to the department's secretary, Eric Shinseki, to resign last week.

Acting VA Secretary Gibson pointed out that improving veteran care was another "priority goal" of the VA alongside ending veteran homelessness.

"As the President has directed, we are moving immediately to getting veterans off of wait lists and into clinics and we are taking actions to fix the systemic problems that allowed these unacceptable waits to occur."

Filed under: Michelle Obama • Veterans • Veterans Affairs • White House
soundoff (38 Responses)
  1. emskadittle

    what no republicans making fun of her? try and shoot this one down

    June 4, 2014 05:26 pm at 5:26 pm |
  2. Abbey

    6 out of 10 Americans don't trust this president when it comes to veterans and the VA.

    Too late madam.

    June 4, 2014 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  3. Abbey

    This administration has ZERO credibility when it comes to the nations veterans. Why should we expect anything different from this photo-op and the first lady?

    June 4, 2014 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  4. Abbey

    Nothing but a worthless attempt to change the narrative from the Obama VA debacle.

    June 4, 2014 05:34 pm at 5:34 pm |
  5. Miami Mike

    Why not use the $ millions that Barack spends on the FDA to educate illegal immigrants on how to get US Food Stamps after they illegally cross the border? Our troops deserve help.

    June 4, 2014 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  6. just asking

    6 out of 10 americans don't trust this president period. the topic is irrelevant.

    June 4, 2014 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  7. Silence DoGood

    @just asking
    6 out of 10 americans don't trust this president period. the topic is irrelevant.
    When did 6/10 disapprove handling of VA into 6/10 "don't trust"? Flexible conservative morality. Lie if you need to.

    June 4, 2014 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  8. bill

    first a tv moment for the released deserter and now this for the same reason. Why not put your money in with the David Roever ministry that takes in vets and teaches them how to be productive????

    June 4, 2014 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  9. excuse my rant

    what no republicans making fun of her? try and shoot this one down
    You were just too fast for them in your comment. 🙂

    June 4, 2014 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  10. Ol' Yeller

    Let's hold off judgement until we see who votes for Bernie Sanders Bill to correct this problem and who tries to block it and fillibuster it, and eventually vote against it.
    Hate to break it to you righties.... but it won't be the Dems who stand in the way of trying to help the Vets (you see it is more than just complaining and finger pointing- it is leading and governing, which has not been done by the republicants for decades).

    June 4, 2014 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  11. Hugo

    what no republicans making fun of her? try and shoot this one down

    How many apartments could you rent for 5 years for the cost of ONE of the Mooch's vacations?
    How about them apples?

    June 4, 2014 06:26 pm at 6:26 pm |
  12. CryBabies

    What else can be said that this administration has not already said? I like the idea Michelle....I guess better late than never. Funny how NOW is the time to bring it up. Commendable but predictable. Hope it gets legs.

    June 4, 2014 06:36 pm at 6:36 pm |
  13. Doris V

    In Albuquerque, NM, several years ago, I was involved in an outreach program to the homeless. I met many veterans who would rather be on the street than confined to four walls even if they owned the place. This is a problem that will not be solved easily. Wish I were smart enough to come up with a solution.

    June 4, 2014 06:41 pm at 6:41 pm |
  14. don in albuquerque

    Since the VA was founded in 1930, there have been continuing problems with it in almost all areas. I would guess by your definition every president since then has ZERO credibility. You see it was not just a Obama debacle. And don't you think that the GOTP voting down almost every bill that would have helped had something to do with it? Silly question. Of course you don't. I still think THIS president was behind the Lindbergh baby kidnapping, don't you? Ridiculous posts.

    June 4, 2014 06:54 pm at 6:54 pm |
  15. Hugo

    They're not really homeless, they've just been standing in line waiting for their VA visits for so long they've just been mistaken for homeless.

    June 4, 2014 07:07 pm at 7:07 pm |
  16. Lizzie

    If one thing does not work, try something else to deflect from the shortcomings.

    June 4, 2014 07:30 pm at 7:30 pm |
  17. 2_indy1600

    CNN rerported that one-third of verterans were homeless in 1997. Whose watch was that on?

    June 4, 2014 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  18. Smitty

    Fact is Moochie and Obumbles cant lead in any direction, please you and your hubby have done enough harm to the vets, besides that lunch thing worked out so well.

    June 4, 2014 07:40 pm at 7:40 pm |

    All veterans deserves jobs and a home . All americans deserves a job and homes . Dont vote dem and see through the smoke bombs and sweet nothings . Dems love to pretend to care be 4 elections but we all kn0w beTTer now its so old an means n0thing at all every dang blame time .

    June 4, 2014 07:52 pm at 7:52 pm |
  20. Spgfld Tom

    So, Mrs. President Pinocchio is going to trade Gitmo detainees for homes for homeless veterans (many of which have probably waited 18 months for a VA appointments). Keep trying, Michelle, maybe somebody in the nation hasn't seen through your callous "initiatives" scheme........# Save Our Republic

    June 4, 2014 08:03 pm at 8:03 pm |
  21. Name JK. SFL. THE GOP HOWDEE GOWDEE SHOW with special guest ISSA the CLOWN

    What does the GOP do for the veterans , oh yea, CUT the VA BUDGET!!!!!

    June 4, 2014 08:42 pm at 8:42 pm |
  22. Rick McDaniel

    This is simply rhetoric........with all the effort to make it happen, required from the states. The states don't need Washington's encouragement..........they already do a better job than the feds of helping our vets.

    June 4, 2014 09:47 pm at 9:47 pm |
  23. J Anthony

    @just asking: no,you're irrelevant. Who cares if it's political, it's a worthy cause. When Republicans politicize issues, there is no cause except their own, and their backers. Will it get done? That depends. If idiots like you are going to deem worthy causes "irrelevant" and fight against them, then it's going to be harder to get anything done isn't it? I guess you prefer never doing anything, ever.

    June 4, 2014 10:01 pm at 10:01 pm |
  24. king

    All these repubs on here pretending to care about veterans, yet if the politics should change in the dems favor, you'll see how quick they throw veterans over board. The repubs has no standard. This is why they'll run around a corner with pitch forks and torches shouting kill giverment, and appear on the other side with picket sign shouting government is too underfunded to take care of what they like.

    June 4, 2014 10:47 pm at 10:47 pm |
  25. nintex

    Why can't the Republicans just once admit that the First Lady is doing some things that are definitely good for this country? Why can't they just once say something nice about her efforts to help people? Why?????

    June 4, 2014 11:11 pm at 11:11 pm |
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