Rockford, Ill. is one of the first cities to effectively solve homelessness for veterans, with goals to eliminate all homelessness by 2020.
According to Realtor.com, the city has to keep the number of identified homeless veterans below eight in order to keep the its certification. To accomplish this, a dozen federal, local, and private agencies work together to find homes for any new applicant within 30 days. Rockford, together with two adjacent counties, spend about $3.5 million on health and housing programs each year.
Rockford and dozens of other cities accepted a challenge posed by then-First Lady Michelle Obama in June 2014 to end veteran homelessness, creating a network for city officials to brainstorm and share ideas. Since then, some 63 communities and three states have followed Rockford’s lead to be certified as having solved the problem, including bigger cities like Miami, which was certified last summer. Other major metros, including Chicago, Los Angeles and New York have also signed on to the challenge.
“We’ve actually seen it’s possible anywhere,” said Matthew Doherty, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, though high rents and finding landlords willing to rent to the homeless can be a challenge in bigger cities.