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Tackling Homelessness Among Veterans

On a visit to a Vermont homeless shelter for veterans, Maj. L. Tammy Duckworth met a man who lived there with his wife and two young children. She asked if he was looking for a job.

No, he told her. He was a member of the Vermont National Guard, and he was getting ready to deploy. And he was excited, she said: His family could stay in the shelter while he was deployed and save up his pay so they could have a home when he got back.

“We are all dishonored when a veteran sleeps on the same streets that he or she has defended,”Duckworth, the assistant secretary for public and intergovernmental affairs at the Department of Veterans Affairs, said in Hartford Monday. “We are all dishonored when a veteran’s family has to live in a shelter while he or she is out fighting for us. We need to fix that.”

There are 76,000 homeless veterans in the U.S., including an estimated 462 in Connecticut, and Duckworth is part of an effort to get the number to zero by 2015. It’s part of a larger federal plan, calledOpening Doors, that also has goals of ending chronic homelessness by 2015 and homelessness among families, youth and children by 2020.

“I know it is ambitious,” she said. “But when we started, we had 131,000 veterans on the streets of this nation. A year ago, we were at 107,000 homeless veterans on the streets of this nation. And as of April, we are now at 76,000 homeless veterans on the streets of this nation.”

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