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Dallas officials say they've 'effectively' ended veteran homelessness. Here's what that really means

The Dallas skyline as seen from city hall Wednesday, Aug 16, 2023, in Dallas.
Yfat Yossifor
Federal officials say Dallas will join 83 other states and communities that have also met the benchmark and can say they've 'effectively' ended veteran homelessness.

Dallas officials say they have “effectively” ended veteran homelessness. The benchmark was confirmed by multiple federal agencies, according to a letter read by Dallas Mayor Eric Johnson during a Wednesday press conference.

Those agencies are the United States Interagency Council on Homelessness, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Veterans Affairs, according to Johnson.

Christopher Varner described himself as a combat Army veteran who served in Afghanistan. Varner said during the press conference it was not easy for him to reintegrate into civilian life after serving in the military and said he faced many challenges.

"One of them was struggling to maintain housing," Varner said. "I know that I had to seek some assistance because I was spiraling."

Varner said he was welcomed into the HUD program geared toward homeless veterans and that his agent helped him through some of his challenges.

"I didn't feel alone, she helped give me hope, helped change my outlook on life," Varner said. "Not only have I evolved as veteran, but I have evolved as a man. I strive each day to make better choices that will positively impact me and my daughter."

So what does “effectively” ending homelessness among veterans mean?

“It doesn’t mean that we are never going to see another veteran experiencing homelessness in our city or our county ever again,” Johnson said.

“It means that we now have the systems, the data and the coordination in Dallas and Collin counties to where any veteran, that does fall into homelessness, can and will quickly obtain a permanent home within 90 days.”

Meg Kabat is the principle senior advisor to the Secretary of Veterans Affairs (VA).

“Today Dallas joins 83 other states and communities across the United States that have effectively ended veteran homelessness,” Kabat said. “We got here today though partnership and collaboration and by focusing on the tenants of the evidence-based ‘housing first’ approach.”

Among those partners is Housing Forward, a group founded in 2002 to serve as a voice for homelessness in Dallas county, and the All Neighbors Coalition, which is made up of over 100 partner organizations that support homeless populations in the region.

Kabat says that approach prioritizes getting veterans into housing and then helping them with “wrap-around” services.

“Here in Dallas this fiscal year, VA has places 532 veterans in permanent housing,” Kabat said. “With 97% of those veterans remaining housed to date.”

Kabat says the agency also “engaged with” more than 650 unsheltered veterans.

District 5 Council Member Jaime Resendez spent eight years in the U.S. Army as an engineer which included serving a year stationed in Baghdad.

“When I returned home, I faced many obstacles while dealing with the lingering effects of my service. These challenges are not unique to me there a shared experience of many of my fellow veterans,” Resendez said.

“After serving our country too many of us struggle to find a place to call home. It’s an issue that goes beyond the lack of a roof over ones head. It encompasses the loss of stability, security and the ability to build a life after service,” he continued.

District 1 Council Member Chad West also served in the Army and was deployed to Hungary and Bosnia.

“Obviously our work is not done until homelessness is ended for everyone,” District 1 Council Member Chad West said. “But today is a celebration. It’s a celebration for the 1.5 million veterans in Texas and a celebration for the 500,000 veterans in [Dallas Fort-Worth].”

HUD Regional Administrator Candace Valenzuela said during the event that women veterans are even more at risk of falling into homelessness.

“Women are twice as likely to be homeless if they are veterans and that was a situation that my mother found herself in after serving in the army,” Valenzuela said.

“But a HUD voucher and our months long stay prior to that in a Salvation Army shelter is what helped us get our feet under us…so you all understand that I know what happens when good people are thinking of folks they’ll never meet, and good governance comes together.”

Every city, state and private sector official that spoke during the event also highlighted the fact that the work is not done.

While officials say the milestone is worth celebrating, the city is facing multiple financial burdens including funding the public safety pension and an upcoming budget season. Still, some Dallas leaders say they’ll be able to maintain the investments.

“You got to look at the funding sources,” West said. “A lot of the funding that we seek as a city for these efforts comes from HUD, come from the federal government and then also from philanthropic fundraising that’s done by the coalitions.”

West said the city has been on record to “do what it takes to move the trend forward.”

Kabat urged veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of homelessness to call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 877-424-3838. It is staffed 24/7.

“We are, I am, committed to ending homelessness among veterans because it’s our nation’s duty to ensure all veterans have a place to call home,” Kabat said. “You fought for us, we’ll fight for you.”

Got a tip? Email Nathan Collins at You can follow Nathan on Twitter @nathannotforyou.

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Nathan Collins is the Dallas Accountability Reporter for KERA. Collins joined the station after receiving his master’s degree in Investigative Journalism from Arizona State University. Prior to becoming a journalist, he was a professional musician.