Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray today announced that veteran homelessness dropped 26% in Massachusetts between January 2010 and January 2012, exceeding a 17% national rate of decline over the same two-year period.

The data is based on a single-night count of homeless veterans by the Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development departments. The survey was conducted one night in January 2012, and compared with previous single-night annual counts. The 1,181 veterans counted in 2012 shows a 7 percent decline from 2011 and a 26 percent decline from 2010.

Murray credits the downward trend to the Patrick-Murray Administration’s collaboration with state and regional veteran service providers.

“Some of that has been facilitated by funding at the state and local level, but it’s providing housing, but equally important to housing is support services, knowing that each and every veteran’s challenge is a little different,” he said.

Murray says what makes Massachusetts unique from other states is the SHARP program, which stands for Statewide Housing Advocacy for Reintegration and Prevention. A year ago, the state launched this pilot program to specifically address homelessness for veterans.

“All of these SHARP members from the Dept. of Veteran Services are veterans,” he explained. “They provide peer support, whether it’s mental health issues, worker education issues, and help assess and stabilize the situation working alongside a fellow veteran.”

Since January 2011, the SHARP Team has housed 48 chronically homeless veterans through the Housing and Urban Development voucher program. This has led to a higher than national average success rate in keeping these veterans housed and providing stability through case management. Murray says veterans have personally told him how they have benefited from these programs.

“I think it’s a testament to taxpayers both here in MA and around the country, and policy makers and advocates for veterans that we are putting these resources in place to honor those who have served our country and the values that we all believe in as Americans,” he said.

Building on the Patrick-Murray Administration’s efforts to end homelessness among veterans, Lieutenant Governor Murray intends to release a statewide plan later this winter to further address homelessness among the veteran population.