Kent Co. honored as first Mich. community to successfully tackle veteran homelessness

KENT COUNTY, Mich. -  Local and state leaders say a push to end homelessness for veterans is working, and Kent County celebrated their success Tuesday during an awards ceremony at Calvin College.

The US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) awarded Kent County as being a "Functional Zero Community," which means they house the same number of homeless veterans that are currently sleeping on the streets, ensuring that future homeless vets can be assured housing after it is known they are homeless.

"There's no way to prevent everyone's homelessness, but really having a system engaged to be able to quickly rehouse people is the most important thing," said Capt. Kelly Rose, Chief Housing Solutions Officer for the Michigan State Housing Development Authority.

Despite the ongoing struggle to get homeless veterans off the street, a handful of partners dedicated to the cause were awarded Tuesday for years of hard work and dedication. Since the Department of Veteran Affairs started their goal of ending veteran homelessness in 2009, veteran homelessness has decreased by 50 percent, according to the department spokesperson.

Dozens of agencies have answered the call to help homeless veterans find a place to call home. Jeffrey King with Community Rebuilders told FOX 17 this is a win not only for Kent County but the entire state.

"We’re the first community in Michigan to achieve this goal and we’re one of 54 communities across the county," King said.

Even though homelessness hasn't been completely eradicated, proponents of this initiative say it's a huge step in the right direction.