Op-Ed

Ben Carson: The end of veteran homelessness is within reach in South Florida

In Miami, hundreds of homeless veterans have special needs.
In Miami, hundreds of homeless veterans have special needs. MIAMI HERALD

There is no more important housing issue in this country than when a person or a family has no housing at all. It is even more tragic when that person is a veteran who once served our nation.

Homelessness makes us uncomfortable. Some are tempted to look away and surrender to the notion that it’s a problem too big to solve. That’s not true. This is a problem we can solve. Last week, I was honored to join the Miami-Dade County Homeless Trust to mark giant steps toward effectively ending veteran homelessness in South Florida.”

Ending homelessness isn’t some lofty goal or simple public declaration. It involves the heavy lift of creating a system to ensure that when homelessness happens, it’s rare, brief and non-recurring. Miami-Dade County is joining a growing national movement, currently including 63 other communities, to end veteran homelessness.

This is not easy. To achieve this goal, the Miami-Dade Homeless Trust needed to drive down the number of veterans experiencing homelessness by building a system that supports long-term and lasting solutions. My agency, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, is part of a larger federal effort to end homelessness in all its various forms. Along with the Department of Veterans Affairs and others, we have made incredible progress at reducing veteran homelessness.

The latest national estimate finds that the number of veterans experiencing homelessness is on the decline in most parts of the country. At latest count, local communities reported approximately 40,000 veterans experience homelessness on any given night — 2,800 in Florida alone. While we are making progress, these numbers tell us that we still have a lot of work to do.

The adage “All housing is local” is especially true when it comes to homelessness. For example, in many cities along the West Coast and in the Northeast, the severe shortage of affordable housing is driving up the number of individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Meanwhile, there are a growing number of cities, counties, and states where we’re seeing remarkable reductions in homelessness.

Miami-Dade County is joining the ranks of cities such as Kansas City and Pittsburgh, and states such as Virginia and Delaware, which are ending veteran homelessness. All this proves that ending homelessness can be done.

Those who find themselves homeless deserve more than a life on the streets. We have few responsibilities greater than making certain those who have sacrificed so much in service to this country have a home they can call their own. Miami-Dade County is answering the call to serve those who served us.

Ben Carson is the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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