As ICTMN reported in December 2011, the 2010 Veteran Homelessness supplemental assessment report to Congress indicated a disturbing statistic that showed that American Indian and Alaska Native veterans who are poor are two times more likely to be homeless than American Indian and Alaska Native non-veterans who are poor. Homelessness among veterans is an alarming and persisting problem. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is striving for solutions.
On September 19 the VA announced it has approved $28.4 million in grants to fund 38 projects in 25 states and the District of Columbia that will provide transitional housing to homeless veterans.
Among these 38 projects, 31 will provide temporary housing to homeless veterans with the goal that they will retain the residence as their own.
“As we drive toward our goal to end homelessness among veterans by 2015, VA continues to find innovative ways to permanently house veterans who were formerly homeless,” said Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric K. Shinseki. “Under President [Barack] Obama’s leadership, we have made incredible strides in creating programs to aid these brave men and women who have served our Nation so well.”
Thirty-one of the grants were awarded through VA’s Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem Program’s “Transition in Place” model. The program allows veterans the opportunity to take over payment of a lease instead of moving out after using VA services—substance use counseling, mental health services, job training and more. Other VA programs require veterans living in transitional housing to move out after 24 months.
GPD helps close gaps in available housing for the nation’s most vulnerable homeless veterans, including women with children, Native American tribal populations, and veterans with substance use and mental health issues.
Those receiving funding have undergone a rigorous review by teams of experts rating each application under objective criteria to ensure that those funded have the ability to provide the services described and a solid plan to get these Veterans into housing with a high probability of obtaining residential stability and independent living.
“Securing permanent housing is a vital step in the journey of our homeless Veterans,” said Dr. Susan Angell, executive director for VA’s Veterans Homeless Initiative. “This is the last piece of the puzzle, and it is crucial for them in continuing to lead independent lives.”
Community-based programs funded by GPD provide homeless veterans with support services and housing. GPD grants are offered annually as funding is available by VA’s National Homeless Program.
Lisa Pape, national director of homeless programs for the Veterans Health Administration which oversees GPD said VHA’s focus is creating and strengthening community services around the country so that homeless Veterans get the support they need.
“Our focus is creating a team of community support — pairing a variety of services, such as mental health support, employment assistance and job training with the essential component of housing,” Pape said. “Whether it is aid in overcoming substance use or finding a job, a community helping hand is exactly what these veterans need to lead a better quality of life.”
On a single night in 2011, a national count of homeless veterans totaled 67,495, which is 12 percent lower than 76,000 in 2010. As part of the government’s five-year plan to eliminate veteran homelessness by 2015, VA has committed almost $1 billion to strengthen programs that prevent and treat the many issues that can lead to veteran homelessness.
The award of grants follows closely with a notice VA published asking interested organizations to submit a nonbinding letter of intent to the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program to apply for initial and renewal supportive services grants by Sept. 28, 2012. The SSVF Program in the first 10 months of operation has assisted more than 28,000 veterans and their families to prevent or rapidly end homelessness.