Nashua officials say city has reached goal of ending veteran homelessnessBy KIMBERLY HOUGHTON
Union Leader Correspondent
March 24. 2017 10:45PM
NASHUA — According to local officials, veteran homelessness in the Greater Nashua region has come to an end.
On Friday, Mayor Jim Donchess joined Sen. Maggie Hassan and others to celebrate the achievement that has been years in the making.
Donchess announced that the Greater Nashua area, which includes 10 communities, has been certified by three federal agencies to have effectively ended homelessness among veterans.
“We have a responsibility to care for those veterans who have sacrificed for us,” said Donchess. “The Nashua community takes care of our people, and the elimination of veteran homelessness is an example of that caretaking.”
Donchess praised Harbor Homes, the Partnership for Successful Living and the Greater Nashua Continuum of Care for their diligent efforts in making what seemed like an impossible endeavor a reality.
“We are able to celebrate today the functional end to veteran homelessness — a great achievement,” said Donchess, calling upon residents to help continue efforts to ensure adequate housing for area veterans.
Harbor Homes operates facilities in Nashua for honorably discharged homeless veterans under Veterans FIRST, a program that began in 2004 designed to help veterans move on to independent living. Buckingham Place and the Dalianis House in Nashua provide about 60 beds for area veterans.
Harbor Homes, a local nonprofit group founded 30 years ago, secured a $1 million federal grant in 2014 to help combat homelessness among state veterans.
Courtney Lobao, a U.S. Navy veteran, said Harbor Homes has provided a roof over his head for the past seven years following some difficult struggles in his life.
“Did I deserve it? I don’t know,” Lobao said of the housing assistance he has received. “Harbor Homes has always been there.”
Communities like Nashua are proving that homelessness is solvable, and not just for veterans, but for everyone, said Matthew Doherty, executive director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness.
Doherty applauded the partners in Nashua that collaborated to plan and execute the critical strategies known to help end homelessness in the country.
Some of those efforts include transitional housing and support services for veterans and people living with mental illness, and longterm affordable housing for individuals at risk for homelessness or living with disabilities.
“We have to continue to fight to end veteran homelessness,” said Hassan, stressing the importance of making sure that veterans have the support they have earned and need.
It is a critical milestone in the Nashua region, according to Hassan, who said the only way to make change is to be constant and vigilant. Ending homelessness is hard work, and many barriers and stigmas must be broken down in the process, said Hassan.
She said the improvements made in southern New Hampshire will spur positive change elsewhere and serve as a model for the rest of the state and nation.
Declaring the effective end to veteran homelessness requires meeting several federal benchmarks, including identifying all veterans experiencing homelessness, providing immediate shelter to any homeless veteran and having a system in place to assist veterans to swiftly move into permanent housing, according to a release.