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By Jill Fox, Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness & Matt Leslie, Department of Veterans Services
Most great stories have a beginning, middle, and end. When it comes to the story of Virginia’s efforts to end Veteran homelessness, we started with the end in mind – a vision of a Virginia where Veteran homelessness, when it does occur, is rare, brief, and non-recurring.
The Beginning – Defining the Challenge, Getting Organized!
In the summer of 2013, the Virginia Department of Veteran Services and Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness partnered with the VA VISN Network Coordinator, Jeff Doyle, and local leaders in communities to hold a statewide Veteran homeless summit. This event marked the beginning of increased collaborations among federal, state and community partners. We believed that ending Veteran homelessness in Virginia was not an impossible task.
The goal of our effort was supported by the Governor’s Coordinating Council on Homelessness, which includes representatives across state agencies that play a role in addressing homelessness as well as local providers, nonprofits, and other community leaders. Our focus was to unify mainstream and Veteran specific housing and services while continuing to shift to housing first statewide. The success of this endeavor relied on leveraging existing partnerships with the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the Department of Housing And Urban Development (HUD) that the Virginia Department of Veteran Services (DVS) had nurtured. Along with federal agencies, DVS built on partnerships with VA Medical Centers (VAMCs), SSVF providers, and the VASH programs. Also paramount were the relationships that the Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness (VCEH) has with local Continuums of Care (CoCs), including nonprofit housing and homeless providers, local jurisdictions, and other mainstream providers involved with local homelessness planning.
By Mary Owens
On January 23, the White House hosted over 240 mayors during the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) Winter Meeting. During the event, mayors took part in a breakout session with Administration officials including Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald, Assistant to the President & Deputy Chief of Staff for Implementation Kristie Canegallo, Special Assistant to the President Luke Tate, and USICH Interim Executive Director Matthew Doherty, to discuss ensuring access to quality, affordable health care for all Americans and ending Veteran homelessness. The breakout session also provided an opportunity for New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu to discuss best practices on how mayors can accomplish the goal of ending Veteran homelessness. Through the Mayor’s Challenge to End Veterans Homelessness, local leaders across the country are ending Veteran homelessness in their communities. Mayor Landrieu was one of the first Mayors to sign on to the Mayors Challenge and on January 7, 2015, New Orleans became the first major U.S. city to achieve the goal.
By Peter Nicewicz
We often say at USICH that to end homelessness nationally, we must end homelessness locally. To help communities optimize their current resources to accelerate progress towards ending Veteran homelessness, we have identified ten essential strategies for communities to increase leadership, collaboration and coordination among programs serving Veterans experiencing homelessness, and promote rapid access to permanent housing for all Veterans. Each strategy is accompanied by resources to help community leaders and stakeholders understand how to implement these strategies more effectively.
Meanwhile, we have been working on the Federal level to assist communities as they work to reduce the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness and build the systems to prevent its recurrence. Below is a highlight of some of the Federal efforts aimed at helping communities develop and optimize their systems of connecting Veterans experiencing homelessness to permanent housing and the appropriate services and resources Veterans need to have a safe and stable place to call home.
By 25 Cities
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in partnership with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), launched the 25 Cities Effort in March 2014. The 25 Cities Effort is a key Federal strategy through which 25 communities, including Washington, DC, are receiving technical assistance and are mobilizing local planning efforts and partnerships to create effective systems for aligning housing and services interventions through coordinated systems to end homelessness. Led by VA, in partnership with HUD and USICH, the aim of this effort is to assist 25 communities in accelerating and aligning their existing efforts toward the creation of coordinated assessment and entry systems, laying the foundation for ending all homelessness in these communities.
Many Veterans echo the sentiment that their military experience helped them develop important skills that they now apply in their civilian lives.
Today, a year after getting permanent housing and getting out of homelessness, Michael Horton – a Marine Corps Veteran and the Director of Business Development for the National Association of Concerned Veterans (NACV) – is passionate about helping other Veterans who encounter challenges in transitioning to civilian life. “If it wasn’t for my service I can’t imagine where I would be, and now that I am where I’m at and understanding the challenge not only for me but for other Veterans, [helping Veterans] is my passion and purpose,” he said. “That’s why I’m working with NACV now.”
Erica Myrtle-Holmes, Horton’s case manager at the Washington, DC VA Community Resource and Referral Center (CRRC), recalled that Horton demonstrated this passion long before he transitioned out of homelessness. “He was very helpful with new Veterans who were coming in [to the CRRC] that were newly homeless,” she said. “He really took them under his wing.”
A message from USICH Interim Executive Director Matthew Doherty
This week, President Obama put forward a 2016 Budget that again demonstrates his Administration’s deep commitment to ending homelessness. As Interim Executive Director of the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness, I am pleased to share that this Budget calls for the investments needed to end chronic homelessness in 2017, make significant progress toward ending homelessness among families, children and youth in 2020, and sustain efforts to end Veteran homelessness in 2015. In his Budget, the President calls for nearly $5.5 billion in targeted homelessness assistance. In addition to targeted homelessness assistance, the Budget also includes key investments to mainstream programs needed to end homelessness, such as 67,000 new Housing Choice Vouchers to support low-income households, including families experiencing homelessness; survivors of domestic and dating violence; families with children in foster care; youth aging out of foster care; and Veterans experiencing homelessness, regardless of their discharge status.
By Robert Pulster
Massachusetts has a lot to cheer about this week, from the Patriots big win on Sunday to recent efforts to end chronic homelessness through a statewide initiative. The Super Bowl victory was all about teamwork and leadership and the new initiative will require these same virtues.
The Pay for Success initiative is based on the demonstrated success of Home & Healthy for Good (HHG), a statewide permanent supportive housing program administered by the Massachusetts Housing and Shelter Alliance (MHSA). MHSA has served as the state’s leading advocate for supportive housing and has advanced Housing First approaches to end homelessness. HHG has demonstrated that providing low-threshold housing and supportive services to chronically homeless individuals is less costly and more effective than managing their homelessness on the street or in shelter. As of January 2015, HHG has placed 813 chronically homeless individuals into permanent supportive housing.
By Diane Kean
Over the past two weeks, communities across the country have organized thousands of volunteers to conduct the 2015 Point-In-Time (PIT) Count, an opportunity to measure our progress as well as identify people in need—including Veterans—and connect them with a path to permanent housing. As always, Federal partners were on hand to help, including Labor Secretary Thomas Perez, HUD Secretary Julián Castro, OMB Director Shawn Donovan, VA Secretary Robert McDonald and White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough. The Administration has come out in full force to demonstrate our deep partnership with communities and our unwavering commitment to ending homelessness.
We have compiled just some of the photos, blogs, news articles and captions from PIT Count volunteers at the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, and Labor, and USICH and we would like to see more! Share your PIT Count experiences with us using Twitter with the hashtag #PITCount.
A Message from Matthew Doherty
As I come to the end of my first week as Interim Executive Director of USICH, I am acutely aware that there are only 11 months to reach our goal to end Veteran homelessness in 2015. But I also see communities all across the country accelerating their efforts to get the job done. We’ve already seen what’s possible when a community sets goals, focuses on permanent housing outcomes, and works together to solve problems. Just a few weeks ago, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced the city had effectively ended Veteran homelessness, becoming the first major U.S. city to achieve the goal and doing it a full year ahead of schedule. Other communities are also on track to meet the goal, and just yesterday I joined local leaders in Los Angeles as they renewed their pledge to end Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015—a pledge made more confident by their achievement of having ended homelessness for 3,375 Veterans in 2014. There’s no question that our shared goal remains in reach; our progress is proof of that. Our progress is proof that ending Veteran homelessness – and all homelessness - is possible. Right now, communities across the country are performing their annual Point-in-Time Counts, an opportunity to measure our progress as well as identify people in need—including Veterans—and connect them with a path to permanent housing.
By Richard Cho
On January 7, 2015, New Orleans announced that it had achieved an end to homelessness among Veterans. In doing so, New Orleans has become the first major city in the U.S. to achieve this goal, and well ahead of the Administration’s goal of ending Veteran homelessness across the nation by the end of 2015.
It is nothing short of remarkable that New Orleans was able to identify and engage every single Veteran experiencing homelessness in their community and provide them with ready access to permanent housing. Through this process and with Federal and local resources, New Orleans brought the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness down from the hundreds to a single digit number and that is certainly worthy of all of the praise and attention New Orleans is receiving.
But what is equally if not more important than bringing their numbers down is what New Orleans has done to create a system that will ensure that homelessness among Veterans remains a rare, brief, and non-recurring experience. In other words, it is not only hugely significant that New Orleans has ended homelessness for the Veterans who are experiencing homelessness today, but that they have the resources, capacity, and system in place to assist all Veterans experiencing or at-risk of homelessness in the future.
By Lindsay Knotts
Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced the FY 2013 – FY 2014 Continuum of Care (CoC) Program Competition awards, which funded $1.8 billion in grants to 8,400 local homeless service providers across the U.S., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Having formerly worked for a CoC, I know how important this announcement is for many of you. Hours or perhaps years of hard work and local planning went into your CoC application – the results of which you’ve been anticipating for months.
Today’s announcement reflects your critical investments into proven strategies. I know that many of you made hard, but necessary, decisions. Because of your strategic decisions to maximize limited resources, 8,000 effective projects were renewed and 287 new projects were created. These investments will provide assistance to families and individuals so that they can remain in permanent housing or get back into permanent housing as quickly as possible, and never experience the crisis of homelessness again.