Can We Finish the Job of Ending Homelessness Among Veterans in the United States?

Half of the Continuums of Care with the Largest Number of Homeless Persons in the U.S.
Recently Reported Not Having Sufficient Resources to Move Homeless Veterans into
Permanent Housing Using a Housing First Approach 

A brief prepared by Joe Colletti, PhD and Sofia Herrera, PhD  
-Hub for Urban Initiatives- 

As we await 2017 homeless count data to be released, a comparison of the number of veterans who were counted as homeless in the United States in 2016 reveals that the number of veterans has significantly decreased during the 10 previous years. The number of veterans decreased from

  • 71,900 in 2006 to 39,471 in 2016, which represents a decrease of 32,429 or 45.1%.  

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) asked Continuums of Care (CoCs) the following three questions within a subsection of the recently submitted 2017 Continuum of Care (CoC) Program application that focused on progress towards ending homelessness among veterans:

  • Does the CoC use an active list or by name list to identify all Veterans experiencing homelessness in the CoC?
  • Is the CoC actively working with the VA and VA-funded programs to achieve the benchmarks and criteria for ending Veteran homelessness?
  • Does the CoC have sufficient resources to ensure each Veteran is assisted to quickly move into permanent housing using a Housing First approach? 

As noted in table 1 below, nearly all (95%) of the 20 Continuums of Care (CoCs), with the largest number of homeless persons  in the U.S., answered “yes” to the first question about using “an active list or by name list to identify all Veterans as noted in the table below.” All (100%) of the 20 CoCs answered “yes” to the second question about “actively working with the VA (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) and VA-funded programs.”  

Only 50% of the 20 CoCs answered “yes” to the third question about “having sufficient resources” to quickly move each veteran “into permanent housing using a Housing First approach” also noted in the table below.[1]

The importance of these questions stems from an impressive goal to end homelessness among veterans announced by the federal government in late 2009. The plan to carry out the goal was outlined in 2010 in Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, which was developed by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH).[2] 

The plan set forth a number of priorities and strategies to prevent and end homelessness including among veterans and were tied to line items in the federal budget for the past several years. Two successful programs that have been receiving funding to help prevent and end homelessness among veterans were the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program and the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program.  

The HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program “combines Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) rental assistance for homeless Veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).  VA provides these services for participating Veterans at VA medical centers (VAMCs) and community-based outreach clinics.”[3] 

The Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program provides “a broad range of services to very low-income Veteran families residing in or transitioning to permanent housing. These services may include outreach; case management; assistance obtaining VA and other benefits; and temporary payments for rent, moving expenses, child care, transportation and other costs associated with helping Veteran families stay in or acquire permanent, stable housing.”[4] 

Table 1. Answers to Questions Regarding veterans in 2017 CoC Program Application by Continuums of Care with Largest Total Number of Homeless Persons in the U.S. in 2016.*

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continuum of Care:

Does the CoC use an active list or byname list to identify all Veterans experiencing
homelessness in the CoC?

Is the CoC actively working with the VA and VA-funded programs to achieve the
benchmarks and criteria for ending Veteran
homelessness?

Does the CoC have sufficient
resources to ensure each Veteran is assisted
to quickly move into permanent housing
using a Housing First approach?

 

 

 

 

Boston, MA

yes

yes

yes

Chicago, IL

yes

yes

yes

Colorado Balance of State

yes

yes

no

District of Columbia

yes

yes

yes

Georgia Balance of State

yes

yes

no

Honolulu, HI

yes

yes

yes

Indiana Balance of State

yes

yes

yes

Las Vegas/Clark County, NV

yes

yes

yes

Los Angeles City & County, CA

yes

yes

no

Nassau, Suffolk Counties/ Babylon/Islip/ Huntington, NY

yes

yes

yes

New York City, NY

yes

yes

yes

Oregon Balance of State

yes

yes

no

San Diego City and County, CA

yes

yes

no

San Francisco, CA

yes

yes

yes

San Jose/Santa Clara City & County, CA

yes

yes

no

Santa Ana/Anaheim/ Orange County, CA

yes

yes

no

Seattle/King County, WA

yes

yes

no

Texas Balance of State

yes

yes

no

Washington Balance of State

no

yes

yes

Wisconsin Balance of State

yes

yes

no

 

 

 

 

Total “Yes”:

19

95%

20

100%

10

50%

Total ”No”:

1

5%

0

0%

10

50%

Total:

20

100%

20

100%

19

100%

*For total numbers for each CoC go to www.hudexchange.info/programs/coc/coc-homeless-populations-and-subpopula...

Next Steps 

Next steps include finding out why each CoC answered “yes” or “no” to the question 

  • Does the CoC have sufficient resources to ensure each Veteran is assisted to quickly move into permanent housing using a Housing First approach? 

The USICH is in the process of “gathering stakeholder input” to “revise and strengthen” the Opening Doors strategic plan to include what has been learned about preventing and ending homelessness including among veterans. The USICH updated and amended the plan in 2012 and in 2015 and plans on releasing another update based on stakeholder input in early 2018. 

Urban Initiatives is supporting the efforts of the USICH and helped convene another meeting of the Southern California Alliance of CoC Leaders earlier this month. The Alliance consists of the 13 CoCs that make up Southern California. Representatives from the USICH, HUD, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), and U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also attended the meeting. 

Urban Initiatives also supported the efforts of the USICH by helping to convene a meeting of the California Central Valley CoCs earlier this month. The Central Valley consists of six CoCs. Representatives from the USICH, HUD, U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA), and U. S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) also attended the meeting.  

Representatives from 18 CoCs (Kern County CoC attended both meetings) engaged one another and federal partner representatives to help revise and strengthen the priorities and strategies identified in Opening Doors regarding veterans and other subpopulations of persons who are homeless including youth, families, and persons who are chronically homeless. 

The consensus among the 18 CoCs is that ending homelessness among veterans in their jurisdictions can happen if enough resources are available. The prevailing view was that the following resources were adequate or adequate resources could be obtained: street outreach and engagement, housing navigation using a Housing First approach, rental assistance, and supportive social services.  

The prevailing view was that the following resources were not adequate: affordable housing and permanent supportive housing for chronically homeless veterans. Adequate affordable housing and permanent supportive housing would not be obtained unless much bigger efforts to provide such housing were undertaken. Efforts would need to include new construction and acquisition and/or rehabilitation of existing housing because vacancy rates regarding rental units were extremely low within the jurisdictions.  

Urban Initiatives wants to encourage representatives from the 17 CoCs listed in the above table that are not located in Southern California to help “revise and strengthen” the Opening Doors strategic plan by going to the USICH web site (https://www.usich.gov/strengthening-the-plan) and provide feedback if not already done. Representatives from other CoCs are also encouraged to provide feedback regarding their answers to the three questions regarding veterans.  



[1] HUD noted the following on page 9 of the 2017 Continuum of Care Program application: Use a Housing First approach. Housing First prioritizes rapid placement and stabilization in permanent housing and does not have service participation requirements or preconditions. CoC Program funded projects should help individuals and families move quickly into permanent housing, and the CoC should measure and help projects reduce the length of time people experience homelessness. Additionally, CoCs should engage landlords and property owners, remove barriers to entry, and adopt client-centered service methods.

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