Salt Lake City, Utah, is the second city in the United States to end chronic homelessness amongst military veterans, Mayor Ralph Becker said on Sunday’s Melissa Harris-Perry. The first was Phoenix, Ariz., which declared an end to the issue on Dec. 18.
Becker told host Melissa Harris-Perry that the two cities were engaged in a “wonderful friendly competition” to tackle the issue first. According to its latest count, Salt Lake City now has only eight veterans who remain homeless, but only because they have said those individuals say they do not want homes. Becker pledged the city would continue to work with them.
WATCH: The Rachel Maddow Show on Phoenix’s solution for chronic homelessness amongst veterans
Calling it “inexcusable” and “unacceptable” for homelessness to be a persistent problem “in a society like ours,” the mayor praised the collaboration between all levels of government and the private sector in achieving the goal. “This is a decision that was made by the whole community, and we’ve been dedicated to it for many years,” Becker explained. “The resources, while never enough, have come forward from every part of the community.”
Becker also credited the Obama administration, saying their focus on homeless veterans has made it easier to access resources and support for the initiative. “The federal government is a critical partner in providing resources in many ways – some of it financial, some of it expertise, some of it sharing ideas that come from other areas,” he said.
The federal government unveiled a ten-year plan to prevent and end homelessnessm in 2010. In August, President Obama praised Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton for his commitment to ending chronic homelessness among veterans in the city.
The president also expressed a continued dedication to the issue. “We have to keep going, because nobody in America, and certainly no veteran, should be left to live on the street,” he said.
More than 600,000 people experience homelessness on any given night. About 9% of them are veterans of the U.S. armed forces.
Salt Lake City has focused first on homeless veterans, but is committed to working to reduce the greater homeless population in the city. The December 2013 United States Conference of Mayors Hunger and Homelessness Survey reported that the number homeless families in Salt Lake City decreased by 20% and homeless individuals by 10% last year.
Columbia University professor Dorian Warren suggested to Harris-Perry that the achievement by Phoenix and Salt Lake City could reach beyond just the issue of homelessness. “This is a model for solving intractable social problems,” Warren said on Sunday’s show. “They made a commitment, they lined up resources, and guess what: government actually works.”