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Rochester honored for progress in housing homeless veterans

If a veteran such as Emil Anderson walks into a homeless shelter in the Rochester region, he or she will receive housing immediately. (WHAM photo)

Rochester, N.Y. - If a veteran in the Rochester region walks into a homeless shelter, he or she will receive housing immediately.

That milestone was celebrated Wednesday at the Veterans Summit at Nazareth College. Several agencies that serve veterans gathered to discuss the progress made.

It stemmed from a challenge issued by First Lady Michelle Obama back in 2010 to address homelessness for veterans. To meet the challenge, communities had to achieve a status of "functional zero," meaning that housing is available for all homeless veterans that seek it.

Emil Anderson, a Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam, shared his story.

"There was a point in my addiction and my homelessness that I thought of suicide," Anderson said. "But because of this program I got into Canandaigua they addressed those issues and helped connect me to the places I needed to connect to. I'm standing here today as a productive member of society. I own my own home, I have a beautiful woman next to me. I'm just grateful."

"Our veterans fought for us, and now it's time to fight for them," Mayor Warren said. "Meeting the First Lady's Challenge and achieving functional zero shows that our community is dedicated to helping our veterans. However, we recognize that we cannot stop at providing housing. We must continue to work to ensure that our veterans have access to jobs, safe neighborhoods and quality educational opportunities after they leave the service."

Last year, 268 veterans in the Rochester area went from living on the street to having permanent housing.

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