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july/august 2007

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Homeless Veterans Task Force REPORT

During the week of June 4, I attended the annual National Coalition for Homeless Veterans conference in Washington, D.C. As always, there was a multitude of meetings and breakout sessions to choose from. With many of the sessions running simultaneously, it was impossible to attend everything. However, I did attend the opening plenary session and the annual membership meeting. Rep. Michael Michaud (D-Maine) of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee and the Chair of the committee’s Health Subcommittee; Mark Johnston, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Special Needs for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; and Gordon Mansfield, Deputy Secretary of Veterans Affairs, were the speakers during this session.

I attended the breakout sessions entitled “Focus on Public Policy Issues,” “Women Veterans and Their Special Needs,” “DOL-VETS Customized Employment To Enhance Success of Job Placements,” and “VA Grant and Per Diem Program.”

Through contacts attending other breakout sessions, I was able to obtain information and handouts from several other breakout sessions, including, “HUD Continuum of Care and VA CHALENG Programs” and “DOL Common Measures Reporting System,” as well as information from the pre-conference institutes on “Developing Supportive Housing for Low-income Veterans,” “Incarcerated Veterans—Support for Successful Reintegration,” “Developing a Fund-raising Plan,” and “Addictive Behaviors and Impacts on Incarcerated Clients.”

At the banquet, the keynote speaker was Chick Ciccolella, Assistant Secretary for the Veterans’ Employment and Training Services at the Department of Labor. Several awards, including the newly established Thomas Wynn, Sr., Memorial Award for Lifetime Achievement, were presented.

As this is the only annual conference addressing homelessness among veterans, it continues to be one of the greatest resources for homeless-veteran service-providers. It provides an opportunity for networking that is priceless. Many new and prospective providers are able to connect with experienced providers. It is an opportunity for functioning programs to help new programs by giving direction and ideas on what does and what doesn't work.

The selection process for the first Bobby J Award is under way. This award will be presented at the Convention. Along with the presentation of a plaque will be the awarding of a life membership in VVA or AVVA.

It has been my privilege and honor to serve as the Chair of the Homeless Veterans Task Force over the last five years. Although attendance at our quarterly meetings is not high, the productivity and legislative accomplishments have been monumental. I thank those who have stepped forward on behalf of our nation’s homeless veterans. I look forward to continuing to serve these veterans whose voices cry out to be heard.

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