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First lady Michelle Obama speaks at a Joining Forces initiative event to announcing "The Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness" program, Wednesday, June 4, 2014, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Michelle Obama lauds Becker in fight to help homeless vets

First Published Jun 04 2014 03:47 pm • Last Updated Jun 04 2014 08:19 pm

Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker met with first lady Michelle Obama and other municipal leaders in the nation’s capital Wednesday as part of the "Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness."

During the past three years, the Obama administration — along with mayors and other partners across the country — has seen homelessness among veterans drop by 24 percent, according to a White House statement.

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In 2010, the administration set the goal of ending homelessness among veterans by the end of 2015. The White House recognized Becker and Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton as leading the nation in working toward that goal.

Becker and Stanton had earlier challenged each other to end veteran homelessness.

"Mayor Becker has made the work to address homelessness issues a top priority through an inclusive, collaborative strategy that includes numerous local, state and federal agencies, service providers and community partners and the guiding principle of ‘housing first,’ " spokesman Art Raymond said. "While the approach is producing positive results, the work will not be completed until every veteran, and every homeless resident of our community has the safety, comfort and assurance that can only come with a permanent home."

Wednesday, as part of the Joining Forces initiative, the first lady announced the commitment of 77 mayors, four governors, and four county officials to end veteran homelessness.

She also called on additional mayors and local leaders to commit to meeting the goal in their communities by the end of next year.

To aid the mayors, the federal government has provided resources and enforced programs to strengthen homeless assistance programs, according to the White House. City and local leaders across the country will be able marshal federal, local and nonprofit efforts to end veteran homelessness in their communities.

The first lady noted that cities and dedicated advocates have demonstrated how the right strategies, combined with a commitment from leadership, propelled progress in communities such as Salt Lake City and Phoenix.

Raymond said Becker was especially moved Wednesday when he heard about veterans "whose lives had been profoundly changed by housing opportunities following the experience of homelessness."

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