05/08/2012 - Ending Veteran Homelessness in Ohio: VISN 10 Summit on Homelessness and Employment Opportunities for Veterans

We’ve made notable progress towards the goal of ending Veteran homelessness by 2015. Last year, we saw a 12 percent decrease nationally in homelessness among Veterans. This progress has helped put us on the path toward ending homelessness among Veterans by 2015. Despite this progress, over 67,000 Veterans experienced homelessness on a single night in January 2011.

Now more than ever, we need a greater sense of urgency. However, communities are increasingly being asked to do more with less. To meet this challenge we must coordinate our efforts and act strategically in order to accelerate our progress and make our limited resources go farther.

Reviewing progress and maximizing efforts to end Veteran homelessness was the purpose of VA’s VISN 10 Veterans Homeless Summit that I participated in on May 1 in Columbus, Ohio. The Veterans Integrated Service Network 10 serves veterans in Ohio, Northern Kentucky, and Southeastern Indiana. I presented at the Summit on Opening Doors and specific strategies for increasing economic security for Veterans.

The goal of the summit was to identify gaps in services, opportunities for improvement, and increase collaboration among the VA and homeless services providers, local and state government agencies, homeless advocates, and private stakeholders. VISN 10 hosted VA service providers, Continuum of Care representatives, state and county government leaders, and federal partners to discuss employment opportunities for Veterans experiencing homelessness in Ohio.

Many challenges and potential best practices emerged throughout the one-day convening, and several key strategies were identified:

  • Employment services must be linked with housing: Veterans experiencing homelessness, particularly those with a persistent mental illness, have difficulty obtaining and maintaining employment. Not having a place to go home to creates additional burdens when exploring employment opportunities. Housing is a critical component needed for a Veteran to achieve the goal of obtaining and sustaining employment.
  • Utilize mainstream resources: Veterans and their families must take advantage of mainstream assistance such as unemployment benefits, One Stop Career Centers, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
  • Providers must be responsive to multiple service needs when helping Veterans obtain employment: Veterans experiencing homelessness need supportive services in order to obtain and maintain employment. Very often Veterans need assistance with transportation, criminal record expungement, and access to health care and educational training programs to obtain employment. Service providers should work with the Veteran to address these needs as part of the overall goal of obtaining employment.
  • Partner with state and county agencies: In order to address the multiple service needs of Veterans experiencing homelessness, communities must partner with state and county agencies to identify resources to help Veterans obtain employment. VA homeless service providers need to develop relationships with providers who offer legal aid, transportation, and workforce development.

Unemployment can be a result of multiple factors including the economy, disability, poor health, lack of job skills, and the limited supply of low-skill jobs. To increase economic security for Veterans experiencing homelessness we must continue to explore supported employment interventions, utilize access to mainstream resources and income supports, and integrate housing with homeless assistance and supportive services. 

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