Mayor Chris Watts announced today that the City of Denton, jointly with the Denton County Homelessness Leadership Team, have accepted the challenge to end veteran homelessness in our community. Mayor Watts made the announcement at the 4th Annual Denton County Homeless Veterans Stand Down and Resource Fair, an event designed to provide support and resources directly to Denton County’s homeless veterans.
The Denton County Homelessness Leadership Team, a Collective Impact initiative managed by United Way of Denton County and funded and championed by the City of Denton, adopted the goal to end veteran homelessness by 2020 into its strategic plan. Support and participation from organizations and municipalities from across Denton County is anticipated.
The Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness is an interagency initiative launched in June 2014 led by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness. The goal of the initiative is to coordinate efforts among local, state, and federal agencies to develop partnerships with cities to end homelessness in their communities.
“Our commitment to end veteran homelessness is a call to action,” said Mayor Chris Watts. “We’re not going to do this by doing nothing. It will be a coordinated effort between leaders from across the public, private, and nonprofit sector.”
During his remarks, Mayor Watts urged the support of the community and landlords in reaching this goal. He encouraged donations to the Denton County Homelessness Barriers Fund, a fund which reduces barriers to housing by increasing resources for nonprofits working with families to promote housing stability and self-sufficiency. Landlords and property managers were challenged to join him in making units accessible to move the needle toward ending veteran homelessness.
“We have to realize that if we do business as usual, we’re not going to get there,” lamented Chris Martin, President of the Denton County Veteran Coalition. “Every partner is going to have to make a fundamental shift to get where we’re going.”
Watts applauded the collaborative county-wide efforts to address veteran homelessness, including the launch of the Denton County Veterans Center in 2017, securing HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing vouchers, and implementing a Coordinated Entry system so every person experiencing homelessness in Denton County can be identified and matched to appropriate services.
“Denton County service providers have worked tirelessly over the past two years to collaborate and implement Coordinated Entry to better identify people experiencing homelessness,” explained Courtney Cross, United Way of Denton County Director of Homelessness Initiatives. “As of today, there are 48 veteran households experiencing homelessness in Denton County, and we are confident we can work together to bring that number to zero.”
Just this week, United Way of Denton County and the Denton County Homelessness Leadership Team launched the Denton County Homelessness Data Dashboard giving a critical overview of households and students across Denton County experiencing homelessness. Sources for this data are obtained from a network of nonprofits collecting information with Coordinated Entry.
Held at the Denton Civic Center, the Stand Down provided homeless veterans clothing, shoes, food, and haircuts, as well as access to a variety of housing, employment, and medical services.