BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Army Veteran Frank Fischer has overcome a lot in his life. He went from serving our country to living on the streets while suffering from diabetes and declining health. He then met a police officer from Evans.
"He noticed I was parking in certain spots, living in my car, he came by one night about 11 o'clock at night and gave me a bunch of numbers to start," said Fischer.
Those numbers led him to organizations like the City Mission, who put him on a path to living in permanent housing.
"I'm glad to be where I am. The people I met, they'll always be in my heart, " said Fischer, "It's a good feeling coming back inside you, it's your pride."
More veterans like Fischer are now getting the help they need here in Western New York thanks to a 2014 challenge from First Lady Michelle Obama for U.S. mayors to prevent and end veteran homelessness by next year.
"We accepted that challenge, we delivered, and I can announce proudly today that we have essentially ended veteran homelessness in our community," said Mayor Byron Brown, D-Buffalo.
Through the process, Brown says the cities of Buffalo, Niagara Falls, Lockport and Tonawanda have proven they can house more veterans each month than are becoming homeless.
"It does not mean there are currently no homeless veterans or that no veterans will become homeless in the future, but our community has systems and partnerships in place to identify and immediately shelter any veteran who accepts assistance and can place them in permanent housing within 90 days of their acceptance," said Dale Zuchlewski, executive director of the Homeless Alliance of Western New York.
During a six-month period this year, homelessness among veterans decreased 26 percent, and for female veterans, it dropped to zero.
Fischer says he's grateful for all of the government leaders and organizations that made that possible.
"They're caring people. That's what we fought for. I'm so proud that they stood up and answered the call to the First Lady."
After accepting the help available himself, Fischer encourages his comrades to do the same.
"Reach out! Make a phone call, talk to somebody. They're all there for you. You've just got to, old-fashioned way, kick yourself in the butt."
If you know a Veteran who is homeless or is at risk of becoming homeless, you can contact the VA Health Care for Homeless Veterans Program at 716-862-8885, 1-877-4AID-VET 24 hours a day/7 days a week, or the Veterans Crisis Line 1-800-273-8255 to be connected to VA services.