NEWINGTON, Conn. — The federal government has declared Connecticut the first state in the country to end chronic homelessness among veterans, officials announced Thursday.
The declaration means that all known veterans experiencing chronic homelessness in the state either have housing or are on an immediate path to permanent housing, officials said. Chronic homelessness is defined as being homeless for at least one year or being homeless at least four times in the past three years.
Advocates last year estimated there were more than 500 homeless veterans in Connecticut. A statewide survey in February by the Connecticut Coalition to End Homelessness found 282 homeless veterans, including 18 experiencing chronic homelessness. Forty-one veterans were living on the streets or in other places not designated for human habitation, the lowest number in the 10-year history of the survey.
US Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald and Governor Dannel P. Malloy were holding a news conference Thursday with other officials at a veterans’ housing development on the campus of the VA Medical Center in Newington.
‘‘Our veterans deserve access to housing, quality health care, education, and career opportunities,’’ Malloy said. ‘‘It’s our obligation to deliver for them, and that’s just what we’re doing as a state.’’
Officials said that while their declaration does not mean that more veterans will not become chronically homeless, systems are in place to help them quickly once they have been identified.
Malloy pledged last year to end homelessness for the state’s military veterans by the end of 2015, and administration officials say the state is on track to end all chronic homelessness by the end of this year.
Connecticut is also among four states and more than 70 communities nationwide participating in the Zero: 2016 initiative, a campaign to meet the Obama administration goal of ending veteran and chronic homelessness by next year.
Just under 50,000 veterans are homeless nationwide, according to Community Solutions Inc., a Washington-based nonprofit overseeing Zero: 2016.
Malloy said the state’s efforts have found permanent housing for nearly 300 veterans who were chronically homeless.
Officials credit the decline in veterans’ homelessness to partnerships among a variety of state agencies and community groups that have expanded services to help veterans and link them with services, and investments in affordable housing.
They also credited increases in housing vouchers through a federal program run by the departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development. Connecticut sought and received 54 additional vouchers last fall and obtained another 75 vouchers last spring, bringing the statewide total to 755.