Homeless Programs & Initiatives
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The Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) has founded a National Call Center for Homeless Veterans hotline to ensure that homeless Veterans or Veterans at-risk for homelessness have free, 24/7 access to trained counselors. The hotline is intended to assist homeless Veterans and their families, VA Medical Centers, federal, state and local partners, community agencies, service providers and others in the community. To be connected with trained VA staff member call 1-877-4AID VET (877-424-3838). National Call Center Webpage
The Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program is offered annually (as funding permits) by the VA to fund community-based agencies providing transitional housing or service centers for homeless Veterans. Under the Capital Grant Component VA may fund up to 65% of the project for the construction, acquisition, or renovation of facilities or to purchase van(s) to provide outreach and services to homeless Veterans. Per Diem is available to grantees to help off-set operational expenses. Non-Grant programs may apply for Per Diem under a separate announcement, when published in the Federal Register, announcing the funding for “Per Diem Only.” Grant/Per Diem Website
The Department of Housing and Urban Development and Department of Veterans Affairs Supported Housing (HUD-VASH) Program provides permanent housing and ongoing case management treatment services for homeless Veterans who require these supports to live independently. HUD has allocated over 20,000 “Housing Choice” Section 8 vouchers to Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) throughout the country for eligible homeless Veterans. This program allows Veterans and their families to live in Veteran-selected apartment units. The vouchers are portable, allowing Veterans to live in communities where VA case management services can be provided. This program provides for our most vulnerable Veterans, and is especially helpful to Veterans with families, women Veterans, recently returning Veterans and Veterans with disabilities. Evaluation of an earlier, similar program demonstrated that most Veteran participants remained permanently housed. HUD-VASH Website
The core mission of HCHV is primarily to perform outreach, provided by VA social workers and other mental health clinicians, to identify homeless veterans who are eligible for VA services and assist these veterans in accessing appropriate healthcare and benefits. In addition to its initial core mission, HCHV also functions as a mechanism to contract with providers for community-based residential treatment for homeless veterans. HCHV Website
VA programs and staff have actively participated in each of the Stand Downs for Homeless Veterans run by local coalitions in various cities each year. In wartime Stand Downs, front line troops are removed to a place of relative safety for rest and needed assistance before returning to combat. Similarly, peacetime Stand Downs give homeless Veterans 1-3 days of safety and security where they can obtain food, shelter, clothing, and a range of other types of assistance, including VA provided health care, benefits certification, and linkages with other programs. Stand Down Website
In VA's Compensated Work Therapy/Transitional Residence (CWT/TR) Program, disadvantaged, at-risk, and homeless Veterans live in CWT/TR community-based supervised group homes while working for pay in VA's Compensated Work Therapy Program (also known as Veterans Industries). Veterans in the CWT/TR program work about 33 hours per week, with approximate earnings of $732 per month, and pay an average of $186 per month toward maintenance and up-keep of the residence. The average length of stay is about 174 days. VA contracts with private industry and the public sector for work done by these Veterans, who learn new job skills, relearn successful work habits, and regain a sense of self-esteem and self-worth. CWT Website
The Community Homelessness Assessment, Local Education, and Networking Groups (CHALENG) for Veterans is a nationwide initiative in which VA medical center and regional office directors work with other federal, state, and local agencies and nonprofit organizations to assess the needs of homeless Veterans, develop action plans to meet identified needs, and develop directories that contain local community resources to be used by homeless Veterans. As the role of women in the military continues to expand, CHALENG seeks to better understand the needs of women and families through several measures. In 2008, women's health, child care, family reunification, family counseling, and legal assistance for child support issues were among the measures assessed by 11,711 survey participants (6,613 of whom are current or former homeless Veterans). CHALENG Website
More than 10,000 representatives from non-VA organizations have participated in Project CHALENG initiatives, which include holding conferences at VA medical centers to raise awareness of the needs of homeless Veterans, creating new partnerships in the fight against homelessness, and developing new strategies for future action.
The Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans (DCHV) Program provides biopsychosocial treatment and rehabilitation to homeless Veterans. The program provides residential treatment to approximately 5,000 homeless Veterans with health problems each year and the average length of stay in the program is 4 months. The domiciliaries conduct outreach and referral; vocational counseling and rehabilitation; and post-discharge community support.
Like the HUD-VASH program identified above, staff in VA's Supported Housing Program provides ongoing case management services to homeless Veterans. Emphasis is placed on helping Veterans find permanent housing and providing clinical support needed to keep veterans in permanent housing. Staff in these programs operate without benefit of the specially dedicated Section 8 housing vouchers available in the HUD-VASH program but are often successful in locating transitional or permanent housing through local means, especially by collaborating with Veterans Service Organizations.
10. Drop-in Centers
These programs provide a daytime sanctuary where homeless Veterans can clean up, wash their clothes, and participate in a variety of therapeutic and rehabilitative activities. Linkages with longer-term assistance are also available.
VHA has provided specialized funding to support twelve Veterans Benefits Counselors as members of HCMI and Homeless Domiciliary Programs as authorized by Public Law 102-590. These specially funded staff provide dedicated outreach, benefits counseling, referral, and additional assistance to eligible Veterans applying for VA benefits. This specially funded initiative complements VBA's ongoing efforts to target homeless Veterans for special attention. To reach more homeless Veterans, designated homeless Veterans coordinators at VBA's 58 regional offices annually make over 4,700 visits to homeless facilities and over 9,000 contacts with non-VA agencies working with the homeless and provide over 24,000 homeless Veterans with benefits counseling and referrals to other VA programs. These special outreach efforts are assumed as part of ongoing duties and responsibilities. VBA has also instituted new procedures to reduce the processing times for homeless Veterans' benefits claims.
This program makes all the properties VA obtains through foreclosures on VA-insured mortgages available for sale to homeless provider organizations at a discount of 20 to 50 percent, depending on time of the market.
This initiative provides for the distribution of federal excess personal property, such as hats, parkas, footwear, socks, sleeping bags, and other items to homeless Veterans and homeless veteran programs. A Compensated Work Therapy Program employing formerly homeless Veterans has been established at the Medical Center in Lyons, NJ to receive, warehouse, and ship these goods to VA homeless programs across the country.
VA has built program monitoring and evaluation into all of its homeless Veterans' treatment initiatives and it serves as an integral component of each program. Designed, implemented, and maintained by the Northeast Program Evaluation Center (NEPEC) at VAMC West Haven, CT, these evaluation efforts provide important information about the Veterans served and the therapeutic value and cost effectiveness of the specialized programs. Information from these evaluations also helps program managers determine new directions to pursue in order to expand and improve services to homeless Veterans.