Tucson housed 223 homeless veterans and their families in the first 100 days of its initiative to end veterans' homelessness. In the next 100 days, the city plans to keep up the pace and get housing for 225 additional homeless veterans, Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild said.
The effort is part of a goal to get all homeless veterans in Tucson into housing by 2015. Rothschild said the city needs to house 1,650 veterans by that date.
Tucson is using vouchers from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to pay for the housing, and Rothschild said that remains the plan for the coming years. But the city is working with a number of veterans' and non-profit agencies to connect veterans with other services.
"This is a housing-first program but unless you have the wrap-around services for the vet you probably won't be successful," he said. That means adding health care, including mental and behavioral health services.
To find the veterans, he said, employees from veteran support organizations, as well as nonprofit agencies are literally "going out into the desert, we have people walking the downtown streets, we have people going out with our police and fire department and getting them into services as quickly as possible."
There's a sensitivity to the difference in needs of long-homeless Vietnam veterans and newly-homeless veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said.
"We want to treat this new what we want to do with this new generation of war veterans is treat them differently than we treated that past generation," Rothschild said.
The services the city is setting up for veterans will help it reach other homeless populations, too.
"People come in and out of homes," he said. "We think if we can set up that infrastructure we can not only end veterans homelessness but set up the platform for ending women's and children's homelessness."
Those who want to help can donate items for the veterans' homes, or volunteer to be mentors or offer help with moving the veterans into their new homes.