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

 Slight Majority of 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
(see table below)

As we await 2018 homeless count data to be released, a comparison of the number of veterans who were counted as homeless in the United States in 2017 reveals that the number of veterans has significantly decreased during the 11 previous years. The number of veterans decreased from 

  • 71,900 in 2006 to 40,056 in 2017, which represents a decrease of 31,844 or 44.3%.  

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) asked Continuums of Care (CoCs) the following three questions within a subsection of the 2017 and 2018 Continuum of Care (CoC) Program applications 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 in 2017 and 100% in 2018 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 in 2017 and 2018.”

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” in 2017 and less than half (45%) in 2018 also noted in the table below.[1] 

The importance of these questions stem 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 and 2018 CoC Program Applications by Continuums of Care with Largest Total Number of Homeless Persons in the U.S. in 2017.* 

 

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 experiencing homelessness is assisted to quickly move into permanent housing using a Housing First approach?

 

2017

2018

2017

2018

2017

2018

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New York City, NY

yes

yes

yes

yes

no

no

Los Angeles City & County, CA

yes

yes

yes

yes

no

no

Seattle/King County, WA

yes

yes

yes

yes

no

no

San Diego City & County, CA

yes

yes

yes

yes

no

no

District of Columbia

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

San Jose/Santa Clara City & County, CA

yes

yes

yes

yes

no

no

Texas Balance of State

yes

yes

yes

yes

no

no

San Francisco, CA

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

no

Las Vegas/Clark County, NV

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

Boston, MA

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

Oregon Balance of State

no

yes

yes

yes

no

no

Philadelphia, PA

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

Honolulu, HI

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

Santa Ana/Anaheim/Orange County, CA

yes

yes

yes

yes

no

yes

Washington Balance of State

no

yes

yes

yes

yes

no

Colorado Balance of State

yes

yes

yes

yes

no

no

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

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

Georgia Balance of State

yes

yes

yes

yes

no

no

Indiana Balance of State

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

Salinas/Monterey, San Benito Counties, CA

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

yes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total “yes:”

19

20

20

20

10

9

Total “no:”

1

0

0

0

10

11

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

            Next Steps 

Knowing why some CoCs answered “yes” when asked—“Does the CoC have sufficient resources to ensure each Veteran is assisted to quickly move into permanent housing using a Housing First approach?—and why some answered “no” would help answer the immediate questions that comes to mind after reading the results noted above. 

Often CoCs struggle to find both available units and rental subsidies for the units for persons who are homeless. However, because of the increasing number of HUD-VASH and SSVF programs rental subsidies are often readily available for homeless veterans. Therefore, available units may be why some CoCs answered “no” regarding sufficient resources for homeless veterans and not rental subsidies. 

If these questions are included in the 2019 CoC Program application, asking each CoC to note why they said “yes” or “no” may help us get closer to finishing the job of ending homelessness among veterans in the United States.



[1] HUD noted the following in the 2017 and 2018 Continuum of Care Program applications: 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.
[2] https://www.usich.gov/resources/uploads/asset_library/USICH_OpeningDoors_Amendment2015_FINAL.pdf.
[3] See https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/public_indian_housing/programs/hcv/vash.
[4] See https://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/ssvf/docs/SSVF_2018_Grant_Award_FAQs_91417.pdf.

 

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