PA HUD, VA Homeless Vets Team Honored with Housing Hero Award

Harrisburg, PA – December 7, 2012 – (RealEstateRama) — The Pennsylvania HUD and VA Homeless Veterans Collaboration Team, which have established a unique, efficient and effective collaboration focused on eliminating veterans’ homeless in Pennsylvania by 2015, were honored as one of four PNC Housing Hero awardees during this week’s Homes Within Reach conference in Harrisburg.

The award was presented by Robert DeSousa, state director for United States Senator Pat Toomey. A lieutenant colonel in the Pennsylvania Army National Guard, DeSousa served the country in Operation Iraqi Freedom. He has earned among others the Army Achievement Medal, Army Commendation Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal and the Bronze Star Medal.

“We need to do more to assist those who’ve fought for our freedoms, and I thank all of those who are working to help our nation’s homeless veterans. I have recently introduced several bills to help improve the quality of life for our veterans, and I commend HUD and the VA for working together to help them,” Senator Toomey said.

Recognizing that cooperation would be essential to reaching their common goal of providing permanent housing to thousands of homeless veterans, Pennsylvania’s HUD and VA first began holding regular joint phone calls to help manage new regulations and policies, problem-solve and gather feedback on particular case scenarios. Three years ago, the agencies started organizing joint training conferences, during which dozens of HUD and VA staff members come together to share best practices and establish stronger working relationships.

In Pennsylvania, the HUD and VA have created communication and training opportunities for almost 100 public housing agencies and 10 VA medical facilities. As a result of this unique collaborative effort, more than 1,200 homeless veterans and their families have found housing since 2008.

“With an estimated 76,000 veterans experiencing homeless across the country on any given night, it is imperative that we do everything we can to eradicate this problem. Here in Pennsylvania, we’re proud to have established a collaborative system that has become a model for serving those who have served the country,” said Michael Wehrer, homeless care team supervisor with the VA. “We’re honored that our peers – those so invested in working to end homelessness and strengthen Pennsylvania’s housing market – have recognized the value of our work.”

Hosted by the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania, the annual Homes Within Reach conference is Pennsylvania’s premier forum focused on housing issues, homelessness and community development. This year’s conference was attended by a record 820 policy makers, developers, advocates, service providers and more.

The Housing Hero awards, sponsored by PNC Real Estate Tax Credit Capital and PNC Community Development Banking, recognize programs and organizations whose creative approaches have allowed them to achieve proven results addressing the Commonwealth’s most pressing housing problems.

“One of America’s most sacred responsibilities is to ensure that those who have sacrificed so much for us abroad can find a safe, affordable place to live here at home. In Pennsylvania, we’re lucky to have agencies like HUD and the VA sharing information, studying best practices and strengthening each other’s commitment to eliminating veterans’ homelessness,” said Liz Hersh, executive director of the Housing Alliance of Pennsylvania. “We’re honored to present the Housing Hero award to Pennsylvanians with such an unwavering commitment to the heroes that have so admirably served our country.”

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