Emanuel unveils plan to end veterans homelessness

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On the eve of his 2003 re-election, former Mayor Richard M. Daley established a goal of ending homelessness in Chicago by 2012 and embraced a plan to make it happen.

It called for shifting the focus away from shelters and toward permanent housing with a bottomless network of social services to “rebuild souls,” as Daley liked to say.

On Tuesday, Mayor Rahm Emanuel lowered the bar to a more realistic, but still difficult goal to achieve: ending homelessness among veterans in Chicago by the end of 2015.

The mayor committed $800,000 in city dollars to a $5 million-a-year plan that will be primarily funded by the federal government.

The city’s share will bankroll 36 “permanent supportive housing units,” rent subsidies for 70 more veterans and provide case management services to match vets with the housing option that best fits their needs.

“By the end of 2015, there will not be a homeless veteran in the city of Chicago,” Emanuel told a news conference at Hope Manor One, 3053 W. Franklin.

“I’m proud that the first community that we’re actually addressing and can say will not be homeless will be the veterans of our battlefields that have served their country valiantly, put their lives on the line, and we actually have put our resources into play to make sure that they have a roof over their head.”

In January, City Hall conducted a so-called “point-in-time count” that identified 721 homeless veterans. Of that number, 465 lived in shelters with another 256 out on the streets.

By pooling city and federal resources, the city hopes to put a roof over all of their heads.

Two years ago, Emanuel unveiled what he called the “Returning Veterans Initiative” to drive down unemployment rates among veterans — which were triple the national average.

The plan called for veterans returning to Chicago to get $1,000-a-year scholarships to attend City Colleges, academic credits for their military training and counseling to ease the transition.

The city also opened a Veterans Employment Center at 4740 N. Sheridan and a Veterans Resource Center across the street from the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center and Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs to address the unique health challenges facing disabled vets.

One in three of the nation’s homeless men are veterans. One in four suffers from either depression or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Since then, the mayor’s sequel to Daley’s plan to end homelessness has bankrolled two new permanent supportive housing developments for homeless vets: 73-unit Hope Manor II in Englewood and Veterans New Beginnings with 54 units in Auburn-Gresham.

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