TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Tucson is one of 25 "flagship cities" selected by the Obama administration to take part in an initiative to end homelessness among veterans, Tucson mayor Jonathan Rothschild said Friday. The goal is to end veteran homelessness by the year 2015.
"No one here is under any illusions that this will be easy," Rothschild said. "But it is doable, and it is something we must do."
The city of Tucson will work with external organizations, like CODAC, the Primavera Foundation and the American Red cross to meet this challenge.
"The first challenge is providing the housing," Richard White, the regional CEO of The American Red Cross said. "The second challenge, which is daunting, is helping them develop steady income so they can sustain living in the apartments we are able to arrange for them."
According to the city, there are 353 veterans who currently are homeless, but that number will grow as military members return from overseas missions. However, the number is down from two years ago when the city says the homeless population among veterans was upwards of 500. "We have shown progress in this community," mayor Rothschild said, adding that it may be one reason Tucson was selected for this initiative.
First responders will play a key role in the initiative, the mayor said, because police officers and fire fighters have regular interaction with the homeless population and can be the first to offer referral guides. "But we are limited in what we can do," a spokesman from the Tucson Fire Department said. "Jail and the hospital may not be where these folks need to go."
The city did not receive additional funding from the government to meet this challenge, but mayor Rothschild said the city received 75 "homeless vouchers" which will cover the cost of the particular housing where a homeless veteran is placed.
Other cities selected include Phoenix, Salt Lake City and Minneapolis.