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Mass. unveils plan to ensure veterans don’t go homeless

Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray on Tuesday detailed a plan to reduce the number of homeless veterans in Massachusetts by 1,000 by the end of 2015, which would effectively eliminate the problem.

There are about 1,181 homeless veterans, accounting for roughly 19 percent of all homeless adults, according to the state.

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In addition to providing housing, Murray said, the plan focuses on prevention, intervention, and public and private partnerships. It comes from months of work involving more than 200 parties, including shelter providers, government officials, and nonprofits, he said, speaking before he toured the New England Center for Homeless Veterans in downtown Boston.

“We will continue to leverage this partnership to deliver critical resources proven to be effective in ending homelessness,’’ Murray said.

The proposal calls for 250 “permanent supportive housing units” specifically targeted to help the estimated 450 chronically homeless veterans in Massachusetts. It also includes plans to seek 700 federal housing vouchers — worth $1,200 to $1,300 a month — for veterans over the next two years with the help of the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Homeless veterans are mostly men, many of them with physical and mental disabilities, according to a state report. But increasingly, female veterans also are at risk, as are younger veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, Murray said.

Even before this initiative, the number of homeless veterans in the state had been dropping. In January 2012, there were 1,181 homeless veterans, based on a survey that was part of a national campaign. Each year, that program counts the number of homeless people in the nation on one particular night. The Massachusetts number for veterans represents a 7 percent drop from 2011 and a 26 percent decline from 2010 as the state has improved its outreach to homeless veterans through peer programs and added housing help.

Coleman Nee, secretary of the Department of Veterans’ Services, said the plan will help the state be the first to wipe out homelessness among veterans.

“Massachusetts leads the nation in providing benefits and services to our veterans and their families,’’ Nee said. “No one who has ever worn the uniform of this great nation should struggle to find a roof over their head.”

Jenifer B. McKim can
be reached at
jmckim@globe.com. Follow her on twitter @jbmckim.
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