Homeless Veterans: VA Secretary Calls for Urgency

Photo courtesy of the VA Homeless Veterans website.

The battle to end homelessness among veterans is just beginning according to Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. The Washington Post covered the VA secretary’s speech Wednesday at the 2012 Annual Conference of the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans.

“Our homeless veterans are counting on us to bring a sense of urgency to this fight — and I do mean fight,” Shinseki said. “The hill gets steeper and the air gets thinner the closer you get to the summit. VA will continue to fight just as hard for our budgets as we have in the past. But at this point, more is not better: Better is better.”

The number of homeless veterans decreased the during point-in-time count from 2010 to 2011. The head of HUD attributes that to its  “housing first” strategy.

Additionally, the VA announced its partnership with the “100,000 Homes” Campaign that is present in more than 130 communities. The goal of the collaboration will be to find permanent housing for 10,000 homeless Veterans this year.

“President Obama and I are personally committed to ending homelessness among Veterans,”  Secretary Shinseki is quoted in a press release.  “Those who have served this Nation as Veterans should never find themselves on the streets, living without care and without hope.”

The collaboration will support the ongoing work of  “Opening Doors,” the federal plan to end chronic and Veteran homelessness.

Volunteers in participating “100,000 Homes” communities will help the VA identify homeless Veterans through their registry week process. Staff will also offer quality improvement training designed to help reduce the amount of time necessary to house a homeless Veteran to 90 days or less.

Pilot training in Los Angeles and New York City has already helped shave an average of 64 days from the Veteran housing process in these communities according to the press release.

Homeless Veterans: Permanent Housing Vouchers Funded

Homeless Woman Iraqi War Veteran in Wheelchair...

Homeless Woman Iraqi War Veteran in Wheelchair and her Chihuahua, at San Diego Stand Down. Photograph by Patty Mooney of San Diego, California, 2007 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Two federal agencies have joined forces to provide $72.6 million to fund permanent housing and staff to handle case management for homeless veterans in all 50 states.

The departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development are working with local housing agencies to provide some 10,000 homeless veterans rental vouchers and the local VA Medical Centers staff  will furnish comprehensive case management.

It’s the goal of VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to prevent and eliminate homelessness among Veterans by 2015. The latest estimate, according to the VA, shows that the number of homeless Veterans dropped by almost 12 percent.

A state-by-state breakdown of the housing voucher grants is available HERE.

An overview of the HUD-VASH (Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing) program is available HERE.

Helping Homeless Veterans, Identifying Homelessness Risks

There are a significant number of military veterans who are homeless in the Tampa Bay area. The region was selected as one of five in the nation for a collaborative project that focused on preventing and eventually ending homelessness among veterans. The demonstration project is focused on:

— veterans returning from Iraq (OEF) and Afghanistan (OIF),

— female veterans

— veterans with families especially with a single head of household

— National Guard and Reserve

The other demonstration projects are in San Diego, California; Kilien, Texas; Watertown, New York; and Tacoma, Washington – all near military bases.

A recent homeless count in just Hillsborough County found more than 7,000 people living on the streets and an estimated 20 percent or 1,400 are veterans.

Photo courtesy of the Houston VA.

The pilot project brings together the services and know-how of the local Homeless Coalition, the Department of Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development (HUD ) and the Department of Labor.

Their new approach is designed to identify veterans before they lose their housing prevent it or those newly homeless, within 90 days.

Mark Johnston is with HUD which provided a $2 million grant for the Veterans Homelessness Prevention Project in Tampa Bay. Each of the five regions  received a $2 million grant, and each project is designed specifically to fit the needs of their area’s veterans.

“The key is to really identify people who are at risk of homelessness. This is not just a program to provide rent. This is a program to target veterans who are literally at imminent risk of becoming homeless,” said Johnston.

Those risk factors include poverty, disability and substance abuse. The three-year project is will identify veterans, help them and then track the veterans over time to find out what prevention measures work best.

To find out more about eligibility, in the Tampa Bay area (Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties) you can call the VHPD Coordinator – (813) 979-3536.

The VA has a National Call Center for Homeless Veterans or a homeless veteran can call 1-877-4AID VET (1-877-424-3838).

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