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Five takeaways on Detroit’s success at reducing veteran homelessness

“If a city like Detroit can do this … I think it's possible in a lot of different communities.”
  |  December 8, 2023

Detroit has made dramatic reductions in veteran homelessness, cutting it by nearly 50% since 2020.

The city is working toward the goal of functional zero veteran homelessness, a milestone indicating that homelessness is rare and brief.

Diandra Gourlay, the Vice President of Social Services at Volunteers of America Michigan

“Right now we are on pace to be the first major city to hit functional zero in veteran homelessness,” said Diandra Gourlay.

Gourlay, the Vice President of Social Services at Volunteers of America Michigan, recently spoke with Veterans Radio about her community’s progress. Here are five highlights from their conversation; you can listen to the full episode here.

Many causes, many solutions

“I think it’s important to recognize that homelessness is complex, and there’s not one reason that causes homelessness. And so you do need a variety of solutions and opportunities for people to exit that and be sustained in their housing.”

Data-driven understanding of homelessness

Gourlay says there are about 100 veterans experiencing homelessness in Detroit now. 

She trusts this number because “We have that live data year-round where most communities for any population that they’re working with just have that once-a-year estimate that gives them the snapshot of homelessness.

Having that live, real-time, daily updated data is how we’ve been able to really move the mark on veteran homelessness here in Detroit.

Coordination is key

“We all know who the veterans are in our community and the providers that they’re working with, and those providers talk to each other for each specific veteran’s case.”

Progress is possible

“The secret sauce to all this work is just that we’re all communicating and working together.  … Regardless of the resources available, we can make measurable reductions to homelessness by providers coming together and working together.”

Aiming for functional zero

“It’s really ambitious. Some days it’s like, oh my gosh, I can’t believe we’re doing this. And other days … it’s really in grasp — like, we can do this. 

“If a city like Detroit can do this, that is historically underfunded and [has] just really been an underdog of a city, I think it’s possible in a lot of different communities.”

Case study on Detroit

Learn more about how Detroit has reduced veteran homelessness.