09/03/2013 - Ending Veterans’ Homelessness: A Message to Continuum of Care & Ten-Year Plan Leaders from Barbara Poppe

By Barbara Poppe, USICH Executive Director

Over the past couple months, I have written about the urgency to increase our efforts to end chronic, family and youth homelessness, suggesting key questions for Continuums of Care and Ten Year Plan leaders. Today, I want to address Veterans’ homelessness, which is one of the two 2015 goals in Opening Doors. We have fewer than 900 days to solve Veterans' homelessness; every day and every minute counts.

Recently USICH Council Chair and VA Secretary Eric Shinseki spoke about the urgency of our shared mission,

The President has led this effort, and the Congress has supported his initiatives. This is about us—our willingness to roll our sleeves up, get our knuckles in the dirt, and drive down the number of street dwelling homeless Veterans.

In central Texas, they have a saying: "You can't wring your hands and roll you sleeves up at the same time." You can do one or the other, and at VA and in this coalition, we have rolled our sleeves up. We have made progress, but it simply isn't good enough for those Veterans who need and await our help.

I am reaching out to ask, are we doing everything we can do to prevent and end homelessness among Veterans by 2015?  In addition to considering the questions below, check out a USICH report on lessons learned from diverse communities across the country that are on track to end Veteran homelessness.

Do you have the needed partnerships in place and are those partnerships translating to collaborative action?

           1.       Do you have working relationships with the local leadership of your VA Medical Center (VAMC)? Have you established routine and periodic communication to ensure a high level of coordination?

           2.       Are you working with all the VA funded programs including, HUD VASH, Grant and Per Diem,  Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) grantees and the VAMC to develop and implement your community’s centralized or coordinated entry system?

How are you ensuring complete outreach to and identification of all Veterans?

            3.       Do all of your CoC assessment tools and programs assess each person’s Veteran status? Have you incorporated VA’s guidance about how you ask about Veteran status?

            4.       Have you considered opportunities for VA outreach workers to co-locate with other homeless programs to support broader reach by VA staff?

            5.       Have you ensured that all VA contracted/grant providers and the VAMC are actively engaged in the planning and implementation of your community’s PIT count?

Are you ensuring that Veterans and their families are able to access the supports they need?

            6.       Do those who work in your community’s intake, outreach, engagement and the delivery of homeless services have a full understanding of VA services and benefits available to Veterans and their families AND how link Veterans to needed services?  Do they know how to how to reach VAMC’s outreach workers and homeless liaisons, when needed, to overcome obstacles?

7.       Do all Veterans have access to housing without having to overcome barriers to eligibility?  Have Housing First practices been broadly implemented?

8.       Are programs working together to ensure HUD VASH is prioritized for unsheltered and chronically homeless Veterans?

            9.       Have you worked with your local VA and Veteran service providers to understand the different types of discharge statuses and corresponding eligibility for VA services? Do you prioritize Veterans who are not eligible for Veteran benefits or programs (like HUD-VASH or SSVF) into appropriate CoC programs?

Are you using data and information strategically to support and track progress against your goals?

           10.   Is your community using a Release of Information that allows you to share information, with a Veteran’s permission among CoC and VA programs, to improve your ability to ensure linkages to appropriate interventions and track outcomes?


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