In 2009, veterans organizations and human services agencies in New Hampshire released a four-year strategic plan to end homelessness among vets, and while huge strides have been made, veterans still struggle with chronic homelessness while others face an ongoing risk of becoming homeless.
Harbor Homes, a Nashua-based human service agency, has been in the lead, both locally and nationally, providing the types of comprehensive services needed to make sure no vet in New Hampshire is without a home.
Harbor Homes has now launched a new campaign, the End Homelessness Fund, to meet the challenge of ending chronic homelessness for all local people including vets.
"We just can't tolerate having homeless veterans after the sacrifice they have made for this country," said Peter Kelleher, CEO of Harbor Homes and the Partnership for Successful Living.
According to state figures, in 2013 there were 600 homeless vets throughout New Hampshire with more than 7,000 low-income veteran families at risk of becoming homeless.
The Department of Veterans Affairs estimates there are about currently 50,000 Iraq and Afghanistan vets who are homeless or at risk of homelessness throughout the country.
Despite those numbers, federal funding to provide shelter and support for veterans has been cut and the funding that is available requires matching monies from local and state agencies.
"Our goal is to raise enough money to leverage the federal funds that are available," said Kelleher who added the target for the End Homelessness Fund is $200,000.
Although there are now more options, rooms, programs and apartments to shelter veterans, Harbor Homes hopes to continue to build its network for support services that include health care, counseling, and job training through its Veterans First Initiative . The hope is to go beyond providing shelter and address the root causes of homelessness among vets.
Veterans' advocates have become increasingly aware of the scope of that challenge during the past several years as more information has become available about the pervasive problems of post traumatic stress syndrome and traumatic brain injury.
Prior generations of veterans often struggled alone with those problems but today, veterans organizations are reaching out to vets, many of whom are either unaware they are suffering from PTSD or reluctant to seek help.
Harbor Homes' "Veterans First" initiative was launched in 2004, when the body of a homeless vet was found on the bank of the Nashua River. That tragedy became a rallying point for advocates for homeless veterans, and programs to address the complex needs of New Hampshire's struggling veterans began to take shape.
Harbor Homes operates four transitional housing programs that offer homeless veterans the opportunity and time they need to rebuild their lives. Buckingham Place, a 20-unit apartment complex on Spring Street in Nashua, was the first program in the country to provide housing for homeless veterans and their families under one roof.
The Dalianis House at 59 Factory St. in Nashua also provides housing for roughly 40 homeless vets while the BAE Systems Independence Hall in Manchester, which opened last June, will offer both transitional and permanent supportive housing. A fourth program on Amherst Street in Nashua provides emergency shelter.
Harbor Homes believes the End Homelessness Fund will allow the agency to end chronic homelessness in the Nashua area by providing a both transitional and permanent supportive housing and by bolstering programs that meet the needs of homeless people, and particularly vets.
Donations to the fund can be made online at the agency's web site at hope@ harborhomes.org or can be mailed to Harbor Homes, 45 High St., Nashua, N.H. 03060.