BECKLEY, W.Va. — The Beckley VA Medical Center announced a milestone alongside community partners and the Mayor of Beckley.

In 2017, the facility successfully reduced the overall homeless Veteran population by 51% in their 11 county region. This is the largest drop in the entire nation.

“We effectively have ended Veteran homelessness throughout southern West Virginia,” declared Beckley VA Director Stacy Vasquez during a Thursday press conference.

The region covers the counties of Raleigh, Fayette, Nicholas, Summers, Greenbrier, Monroe, Pocahontas, Wyoming, Mercer, McDowell and Clay. Commissioners from those counties and Beckley Mayor Rob Rappold worked together under an initiative known as the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.

“It was quite an honor to be part of this teamwork with county commissioners from the 11 county area,” said Mayor Rappold. “It’s certainly an accomplishment that we don’t take lightly. It’s something that certainly puts our local VA and its great staff on the map nationally. It also is a real compliment to the City of Beckley.”

The initiative was launched by the VA in 2014 to call on cities, counties and states to work to end and prevent Veteran homelessness across the nation. Policy Director at the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness Lindsay Knotts said Beckley is the 61st community to reach this accomplishment nationwide and the first in West Virginia.

“We now know that we can end homelessness in all kinds of places. Big cities like Houston and Philadelphia. Small towns like Gulfport, Mississippi and Saratoga Springs, New York…and of course right here in Beckley, West Virginia.”

The VA partners with HUD (Housing and Urban Development) to provide housing for the majority of homeless Veterans they serve. Social services and other needs are then provided to them through the VA. While it is a significant accomplishment, Vasquez said there is still a long way to go.

“There are some Veterans that we are still reaching out to that still are challenged. While we say we’ve effectively ended homelessness, we will never end homelessness for Veterans altogether. Because there will always be one or two people who are a paycheck away from being homeless.”

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin released a statement Thursday morning applauding the VA, City of Beckley and community partners for their hard work.

“Our Veterans make unimaginable sacrifices and it is our responsibility to ensure they have the best possible care when they return home. That’s why I was thrilled to learn that communities throughout southern West Virginia have effectively ended homelessness.”

U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito also released a statement.

“I’ve always said that West Virginians are known for coming together and helping others in need and that’s exactly what we are seeing with today’s announcement. Thank you for your generous efforts to end Veterans homelessness and providing the support our Veterans and their families deserve.”

The Beckley VA will continue to offer homeless services to “ensure no other Veteran becomes homeless in the future”. The National Call Center for Homeless Veterans is 877-424-3838.

“What a wonderful commitment to our Veterans,” concluded Mayor Rappold. “I’ve thought about everything you do at the VA but to know all this great activity that goes on behind the scenes to support our Veterans is just unbelievable.”

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