Maine's plan to eliminate veteran homelessness gets an endorsement from top VA officials
A new campaign to eliminate homelessness for veterans in Maine by 2025 got an endorsement Friday from top officials at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
VA Secretary Denis McDonough was in Maine Friday and said he's confident that the state and its partners will meet its goals of housing 100 veterans within the next 100 days.
"The beauty of this initiative is it puts us on a timeline to meet a specific goal," McDonough said Friday at the University of Southern Maine, where he participated in a panel discussion on veterans homelessness. "And we're going to hold each other to account to meet that goal."
Maine was on the cusp of declaring that it had functionally eliminated chronic veteran homelessness three years ago. But the non-profit Preble Street estimates there are now 200 unhoused veterans in the state.
Whether the plan is successful will, in part, depend on whether social services providers have enough staff to help veterans find transitional and permanent housing — and ensure that they successfully stay housed well into the future.
Preble Street, which is leading the No Homeless Veterans challenge, said it's struggling with low staff.
McDonough stopped by VA clinics in Rumford and Portland and the Togus hospital in Augusta. He also paid a visit to the Maine Veterans Home facility in Augusta.
"The past two days, every single person we've talked to has been short-staffed," said Sen. Angus King, who joined McDonough on his tour throughout the state. "Workforce has been a huge problem. In fact, we met this morning at one of the veterans homes in Augusta, and a whole wing that was empty — when they have a 156 people people on waiting list — because they didn't have the staff."
McDonough acknowledged that VA facilities in Maine and throughout the country have too few medical providers.
"We are trying and will continue to invest in every course available to increase the number of providers here," he said.