Mercer County is the first county in the state to successfully meet a challenge issued by first lady Michelle Obama to find shelter for every homeless veteran.

County Executive Brian M. Hughes, Trenton Mayor Eric Jackson and Frank Cirillo, executive director of the Mercer Alliance to End Homelessness spearheaded the effort to house 79 homeless veterans over the past 10 months.

"It was important to engage everyone in the task of identifying every homeless veteran in the community," Hughes said in statement, explaining that a veteran was defined as "all those who have been in the U.S. Military or the National Guard, regardless of their discharge status." He credited the Rescue Mission of Trenton, Soldier On and Community Hope, as well as the Veterans Administration as helping to meet the challenge.

The recently opened Coordinated Entry and Assessment Services Center in Trenton played a big part according to Hughes.

"We are keenly aware that homelessness is often a symptom to another underlying problem, such as substance abuse or mental health issue," Hughes said. "That is why intense follow-up services are crucial to the success of this initiative."

Obama issued the challenge in June 2014 to end veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. A number of communities and counties in New Jersey accepted the challenge including Atlantic City, Brick, Elizabeth, Jersey City and Newark plus Bergen Middlesex County and Hudson County.