Abilene tackled veteran homelessness as part of a nationwide challenge to mayors. Organizers announced that they had successfully reached the campaign’s goals.
Over a 100 day period, Abilene met criteria set by Community Solutions and the Built for Zero Campaign for Ending Veteran Homelessness, making it the ninth city in the U.S. to do so.
Rosten Callarman, with West Texas Homeless Network says throughout the challenge, groups have worked to put supports in place for veterans who struggle to stay housed. “When we say “ending veteran homelessness”, that doesn’t mean that we will never, ever have another homeless vet on the street,” Callarman said. “What it means is that we’ve gotten to the point where veteran homelessness is something that is rare. It is brief. And it is non-recurring.”
The challenge began last November. But the work to put programs and supports in place to achieve the goals took decades. Callarman says one of the biggest challenges was developing a “by-name” list-of every veteran living on the streets in a three month period. It's something Callarman says takes a lot of outreach and coordination, "It takes knowing where people stay whenever they're on the streets. It takes having relationships with organizations across town, who whenever they find a veteran are able to say, 'Hey, we found this person. Do you know them? Are they already on your list? Are you already working with them?'"
Next, Callarman says advocates hope to spread the successful work with homeless veterans to the rest of the chronically homeless population in Abilene.
“Built for Zero is about proving that ending homelessness is more than a slogan— it's an achievable reality," said Jake Maguire, Co-Director of Built for Zero for Community Solutions. "Abilene has demonstrated that in record time. By coming together as one team, knowing every veteran on their streets by name, and using data to drive change, the organizations in this community have raised the bar on what's possible. Abilene's success is a model for communities across the country looking to solve this urgent and complex problem."