This Veterans Day, Delaware celebrated that it recently became the third state to effectively end homelessness among its veteran population.
Delaware’s State Housing Authority has found permanent housing for 415 veterans over the past two years.
Veteran Gary Morgan Dawkins is one of those vets who now has a home through Connections in Dover, Delaware.
“I got back on my feet, I used the programs that they had," he said. "Thanks for the resources that they had, things just started formulating, started formulating.”
He found himself homeless a couple of years ago after he lost his job.
“I couldn’t find work and it got to the point where I zilched out my bank account," he said. "I had too much pride to go home and tell my brother and sister what happened.”
He finally reached out for help from Home of the Brave, now lives in Smyrna, Delaware, and has a part-time job.
Delaware joins Virginia and Connecticut as the only three states to have effectively ended homelessness among its veteran population.
But that doesn't mean that there will never be a veteran experiencing homelessness in the First State again: a task force continues to meet every month to make sure vulnerable veterans don't fall through the cracks.
A master list of all homeless First State veterans was created, and is still updated every two weeks.
DSHA's Director of Policy and Planning Marlena Gibson said one of the criteria the state had to meet to receive the certificate that they'd effectively ended veteran homelessness was that once identified as experiencing homelessness, those veterans must be back in permanent housing within 90 days.
She said there are about 60-80 veterans currently living in shelters in the First State, but most are working towards finding permanent housing and other necessary services, like counseling.
Work to reduce veteran homelessness started as a national initiative from First Lady Michelle Obama in 2014. Delaware then formed a task force in January 2015 to address it after Markell's State of the State address.
Vice President Joe Biden made a surprise visit to the annual event at Veterans Memorial Park in New Castle where the announcement was made.
“Because of you, that star spangled banner waves around the world and will as long as we are America," Biden said. "Remember who we are. We’re the greatest nation in the world. No one, no one, no one is our equal.”
Biden called veterans not only the heart and soul - but also the spine of America, and saluted the 23 million surviving vets in the United States and their families who ‘stand by and wait’ when they serve.
Biden and Federal Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro also joined other officials in claiming what they called an "effective end" to veteran homelessness in Delaware.
Castro said that since 2010, national overall veteran homelessness has fallen by 47% and unsheltered veteran homelessness has fallen by 57%.