(PHOTO: U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich with Mesilla Valley Community of Hope staff, local and federal representatives, and veterans in Las Cruces. Aug. 24, 2016)
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) convened a roundtable discussion today in Las Cruces at Mesilla Valley Community of Hope (MVCH) to learn more about how Las Cruces became the first community in New Mexico to achieve functional zero for veteran homelessness and discuss ways to build on that success across New Mexico. Senator Heinrich met with local and federal agency representatives, advocates, and former homeless veterans to highlight MVCH and its partners that provide important community services, including case management, disability and income assistance, and housing assistance.
"I'm grateful to the Community of Hope and all of its partners I've met today for all they do to make Las Cruces a national example on how to effectively reduce homelessness for our veterans," said Sen. Heinrich. "Thanks to efforts like theirs in communities across the nation, over the last year, we saw a nearly 50 percent decline in veteran homelessness nationwide. Yet only 30 communities, including Las Cruces, have reached functional zero homelessness of veterans. I know that challenges and continued hard work remain, and I am committed to fighting for federal resources to combat veteran homelessness and to ensure our veterans and their families receive the services and care they earned."
MVCH provides and coordinates a comprehensive set of services addressing homelessness and near-homelessness in Las Cruces and Dona Ana County while promoting dignity and empowerment. In fiscal year 2014-15, MCVH served more than 2,600 people from 18 to 86 years old, more than half of whom were homeless. MVCH prioritizes and has staff members specifically dedicated to helping veterans.
Senator Heinrich is a staunch supporter of our nation's veterans and military families. He is a cosponsor of the Veterans First Act, a bill designedto significantly improve accountability at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and make sweeping enhancements to benefits and services for our nation's veterans. The bill includes a number of provisions important to ending homelessness among veterans and their families. The bill also addresses a longstanding and critical need to provide the VA with additional tools necessary to hold employees accountable when they fail to provide veterans with the level of service and care they deserve.
In 2014, Senator Heinrich voted to create the Veterans Choice Program to ensure all veterans, especially those residing in rural Western states, have access to quality care when they need it most. The program allows veterans to utilize other medical facilities if timely VA care isn't available.
During his visit to Doña Ana County, Senator Heinrich also participated in the ribbon cutting for La Semilla's Farm Fresh Mobile Farmers' Market and toured the La Clinica de Familia's Early Head Start-Child Care Partnership Center in Las Cruces, which helps care for children while their parents work or further their education at New Mexico State University and Doña Ana Community College.