Department of Veterans Affairs Archive
04/02/2015 - Building Blocks to Success: Community-Wide Partnerships and Commitments Drive Success in Central Florida
By Amy Sawyer
In Central Florida, the most important building blocks to success are its people. People from all walks of life including landlords, judges, outreach workers, and faith leaders have partnered with the VA Medical Center to make a difference in the lives of Veterans experiencing homelessness and the data is showing that these strong partnerships are paying off, as the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness is decreasing in Central Florida. This past month, Federal partners from HUD, USICH, and VA joined Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs and Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer to celebrate the great strides the community has taken and, even more importantly, rally the community to finish the job of ending Veteran homelessness.
Standing side by side, the Mayors addressed the crowd of a few hundred stakeholders from the community and reiterated their commitment to ensure that no Veteran should experience homelessness. They challenged the community to align resources and use what is being learned through the successes of the Mayors Challenge to inform the larger system response to all types of homelessness. The VA Medical Center Director, Timothy W. Liezert, and his staff were on hand to share the lessons learned and demonstrate the real partnerships that have emerged across the different programs and systems in the community.
Over the next several months, as the community drives toward the goal of ending Veteran homelessness by the end of 2015, there are key strategies and approaches they’ll be leveraging to find success.
By Martha J. Kegel
Three months ago, after a campaign led by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, New Orleans became the first major city to effectively end Veteran homelessness. During an intense six-month campaign, community partners connected every Veteran living on the street or in emergency shelter who would accept housing with an apartment of his or her own, with supportive services scaled to the Veteran’s needs. Now we actively work every day to maintain a “functional zero” in Veteran homelessness by housing any newly homeless Veteran within an average of 30 days.
I firmly believe that every community can and should end Veteran homelessness.
Yes, New Orleans had some advantages. For one thing, the local VA and its partners had already achieved a significant reduction in Veteran homelessness before we started the final drive in June 2014. At that point, we had already driven down the number of Veterans suffering in homelessness from 660 in the January 2011 Point-in-Time (PIT) count to 193 in the March 2014 count. For another, we have a very strong visionary leader in Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who set the bold goal of ending Veteran homelessness a full year before the federal deadline, convened the key players, and recruited active duty military and Veteran groups to help with outreach.
But in other important ways we were at a distinct disadvantage: As of the 2014 PIT count, New Orleans still had one of the highest per capita rates of Veteran homelessness in the nation as compared to our general population of only 379,000 residents. We were also at a disadvantage in resources: Compared to many other cities, we have precious few ways to pay for housing and services other than federal funds. And when pushing ourselves to get to zero, we were confronting the challenge of housing those whom we had always failed to connect to housing before – those Veterans who tended to have the most complex challenges and who for the most part were not eligible for HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program.
By: The 25 Cities Downtown San Diego Design Team
Before he unlocked the door to his studio apartment in September 2014, Ben Jaramillo had been homeless in the downtown area of San Diego for four years. “I was working as a carpenter, and ended up in my van when work fell flat, and then just kind of stayed there out of convenience and convenience turned into necessity and necessity turned into stuck, because of finances,” he said.
Jaramillo described the challenges he experienced while living in his van. “If [my van] breaks down I can’t use it for transportation, and if it gets towed, I’m really jammed up. Then I have to find someplace else to live, which means turning to my friends or a shelter or, push comes to shove, on the street.”
In June, Jaramillo participated in a Vulnerability Index and Service Prioritization Decision Assistance Tool (VI-SPDAT) survey during a 25 Cities Street Outreach week. VI-SPDAT is one tool the San Diego community is using as part of its Coordinated Assessment and Housing Placement (CAHP) System. The following week he was assigned a Housing Navigator, who helped him understand the resources available to him and collect necessary documents for permanent housing. Soon after, he was matched to a Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) rapid rehousing program through Veterans Community Services, a division of Community Catalysts of California and a partner in the San Diego 25 Cities Effort. The Veterans Community Services SSVF program assisted Ben in finding and staying in permanent housing and provided him with financial assistance to help him pay his rent.
This blog was originally published on the Administration for Children & Families website.
By Marsha Basloe, Senior Advisor for Early Childhood Development
When my son was little, he had a favorite stuffed animal called “elephant.” Elephant went everywhere Benjy went! One of my favorite memories is standing in his bedroom doorway and watching him sleep in his “new big bed” with his arm wrapped around elephant under the covers. This memory was important to me last week as I attended the National Alliance to End Homelessness Family and Youth Conference to present on the Administration for Children and Families’ early childhood efforts to support young children experiencing homelessness.
There were multiple workshops sharing the amazing efforts of programs and communities across the country. Secretary Julian Castro spoke to a large audience about the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s work and HUD’s linking with partners including the Veterans Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services. He said that people need more than just housing; families don’t live in silos and it’s why the collaboration and coordination between HUD, VA and HHS is so important – from the federal level to the local level.
In our shared mission to end homelessness, we know that data drives results. It drives the strategies and implementation of Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, a framework for action for partners at every level of government and the private and nonprofit sectors. It drives tools and practices of the Zero: 2016 effort to help 71 communities do whatever it takes to end Veteran homelessness this year and chronic homelessness by the end of 2016. And it drives the day-to-day efforts of people across the country working tirelessly to assist each and every person experiencing homelessness in their communities to achieve their goals of permanent housing. Data is at the very core of creating a housing system built for zero and achieving an end to homelessness.
Today, Zero: 2016 communities are confirming and committing to one of the most integral pieces of data in their efforts to end homelessness - their Veteran and chronic homelessness Take Down Targets. These Take Down Targets represent the total number of Veterans experiencing homelessness who will need to be connected to permanent housing in order to end Veteran homelessness by the end of this year, and the total number of individuals experiencing chronic homelessness who need to be connected to permanent housing in order to end chronic homelessness in these communities by the end of 2016.
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 Atlas Research
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 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.
By Robert Pulster
Today, there is a celebration happening in New Orleans, but it doesn’t involve Mardi Gras.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu, joined by USICH Executive Director Laura Zeilinger, announced that the City of New Orleans has effectively ended Veteran homelessness, answering the call of First Lady Michelle Obama who last June called on local leaders to join the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness before the end of 2015.
By Liz Osborn
For communities across the country, 2014 has been another year of continued progress in the effort to end homelessness. From the 2014 Point in Time (PIT) count data showing a 10 percent decline in overall homelessness since 2010, to 351 mayors, governors, and local officials joining the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness, we have gained incredible momentum over the past year. Here are just a few of the events that helped to drive progress in 2014.
By Matthew Doherty, Kelly King Horne and Libby Boyce
All across the country, communities are developing coordinated entry systems to streamline and facilitate access to appropriate housing and services for families and individuals experiencing homelessness. In the Greater Richmond area of Virginia and in Los Angeles County, California—like in other places—efforts to bring these systems online are in full swing.
Let’s hear from Richmond and Los Angeles County, who presented at the December 2014 full Council meeting regarding their local efforts to implement coordinated assessment, their successes, their lessons learned, and the challenges that they continue to tackle.
On a single in January 2014, 49,993 Veterans were experiencing homelessness. This Veterans Day, in particular, is a good time to take stock of how our nation cares for the people who served. Ours is a shared obligation, to serve those who served us. We will answer our call of duty, and we hope our record of service to Veterans, in some measure, conveys our deep gratitude for the service and sacrifice of every person who wore the uniform of our great nation.
10/31/2014 - Good News from New Orleans: Federal and Community Collaboration Helped Transform This Veteran’s Life
By DaVaughn Phillips
Mr. H. seems like a completely different person from the man I met just a few months ago. He is thriving in his own home, with a stable income to maintain his living expenses and support his family. More importantly, he has regained the strength, motivation, and courage he needed to become self-sufficient and to serve as a positive role model for his children. After three years of working in New Orleans to help people achieve permanent housing, it never ceases to amaze me how rewarding it feels to play a role in such a transformation.
by Jamie Keene, USICH Communications Intern
Once the city with the highest rate of homelessness in the country, today New Orleans has reduced homelessness to levels that are lower than before the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. By overcoming incredible challenges, New Orleans has shown that ending chronic and Veteran homelessness is possible in every American city.
07/09/2014 - Supportive Services for Veteran Families: A Powerful Tool to Keep Veterans and Their Families Home
by Peter Nicewicz, USICH Management and Policy Analyst
Based on previous analysis, we already knew that the VA's Supportive Services for Veteran Families program is not only effective, but it is cost-effective as well. It now costs only about $2,400 to serve each Veteran household through the program, a 12 percent decrease since its first year of operations.
So what makes SSVF such an effective program in ending and preventing homelessness for Veteran households? There are several key ingredients.
By Amy Sawyer, USICH Regional Coordinator
Through the 25 Cities initiative spearheaded by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, communities have been invited to convene local leaders eager to build on their successes, identify new strategies, act decisively to strengthen their coordinated response systems and, in the process, end Veteran homelessness. To get started, teams of dedicated individuals are meeting for two-day-long intensive work sessions that drive a sophisticated planning process, resulting in specific action steps that will be carried out in months – not years.
by Laura Green Zeilinger, USICH Executive Director
Yesterday marked the fourth Anniversary of the launch of Opening Doors, the first-ever Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness. In four years, we have changed the trajectory of homelessness in America. In just the first three years of implementation, Opening Doors led to significant reductions in homelessness, including an eight percent reduction in homelessness among families, a 16 percent reduction in chronic homelessness, and a 24 percent reduction in homelessness among Veterans. And we are hopeful that we will be able announce even greater reductions when the 2014 Point-In-Time Count data are available later this year.
The progress we are making across the nation has proven that Opening Doors is the right plan with the right set of strategies. Opening Doors also provides a foundation and scaffolding upon which we can continue to innovate and refine the solutions that will end homelessness in this country.
This year, we’re considering amending the plan again to include more of what we’ve learned from our progress.
by Richard Cho, USICH Senior Policy Director
I must make a confession. When I first came to Washington to work for USICH, I was a bit skeptical about how sold the Federal government was on Housing First. I knew that Housing First was mentioned in Opening Doors, but did the Federal government truly embrace it? After all, it was not so long ago that terms like "harm reduction" were considered four-letter words by the Federal government.
So imagine my happy surprise when I discovered that I was flat-out wrong. In the first, of what I learned would be many, interagency meetings on chronic homelessness, Housing First adoption was discussed as a primary strategy for accelerating progress. And one of the very first tasks I was given was to help provide a clear, operational definition of Housing First. The result of that work is USICH's Housing First Checklist, a tool that communities can use to adopt Housing First across their programs and overall community response. Not only does this Administration fully believe in Housing First, but it is working to make Housing First the underlying approach behind every community's response to homelessness.
By Jay Melder, USICH Director of Communications and External Affairs
Today, Community Solutions’s 100,000 Homes Campaign announced it has achieved its goal to connect 100,000 people experiencing chronic homelessness to safe, stable housing—101,628 people, to be exact.
At an event on Capitol Hill, former Army Private First Class Alvin Hill, a Veteran from Washington, DC, shared his story of returning home to civilian-life, losing his job and his apartment, and falling into years of homelessness. Mr. Hill remarked that it was “a tragedy that anyone who would put his life on the line for America could return home to sleep on the streets.” In April, Alvin Hill became the 100,000th person to achieve permanent housing through the 100,000 Homes Campaign.
We congratulate Mr. Hill and we congratulate Community Solutions and all of the local and federal partners who have teamed-up to get the job done. This is an incredible milestone.
Here are three things everyone should know about what reaching milestones like this one really means:
05/07/2014 - In One Year, New Orleans Reduced Veteran Homelessness by 43%, Chronic Homelessness by 30%
By Robert Pulster, USICH Regional Coordinator
Over the course of just one year, New Orleans has reduced homelessness among Veterans by 43 percent and chronic homelessness by 30 percent. In one year, New Orleans reduced unsheltered homelessness by 21 percent, 85 percent since 2011.
Since 2007, New Orleans has reduced overall homelessness by 83 percent, showing steady annual decreases since 2009. The number or people experiencing homelessness in New Orleans is now three percent below the number of people counted before Hurricane Katrina in 2005. This is a stunning achievement.
By Eric Grumdahl, USICH Policy Director
Today, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) released the 2014 HMIS Data Dictionary and HMIS Data Manual, with an effective date of October 1, 2014. This joint release demonstrates the significant collaboration between the three agencies to support data collection on homelessness across their programs and systems.
Beginning from Secretary Shinseki's promise to give all Veterans "a hope, a home, and a future, Mayor of Salt Lake City, Ralph Becker, chronicles the amazing journey of committing and then successfully ending chronic Veteran Homelessness in his city.
01/23/2013 - Aligning Assets Towards the Goal: A Blog from VA’s Tom O’Toole on the Homeless Patient Aligned Care Teams (HPACT)
The adage, “It takes a village” has been applied to lot of different efforts over the years to the point of over-use. However, when it comes to ending homelessness among Veterans by 2015, there is probably no better descriptor for what is needed and what is being done. Last year, as part of this effort, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) launched an ambitious pilot project to develop Homeless Patient Aligned Care Teams (H-PACT) to provide comprehensive, wrap-around primary care coupled with homeless programming to help Veterans make the transition out of homelessness and to help keep them housed. This joint effort between the Office of Homeless Programs and Office of Primary Care Services funded 32 sites around the country located in a variety of settings, including Community Resource and Referral Centers (easy access community- based centers), VA outpatient clinics (community-based outpatient clinics) and within VA Medical Centers. These are sites where we see homeless Veterans struggling to subsist, where they often find themselves cycling through the system dealing with the consequences of their homelessness in emergency departments and hospital wards, and where we have the resources in place to make a difference.
Recently, I accompanied the VA Greater Los Angeles’ (VA GLA) new Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team, to observe their work in Hollywood, California. I wanted to see the team in action, tackling issues on the ground level. Ending Veteran homelessness in Los Angeles cuts across three of my top priorities as Executive Director of USICH: ending Veteran homelessness, ending chronic homelessness, and reducing all homelessness in Los Angeles.
Pictured L-R: Veteran client, Janell Perez, Barbara Poppe
The ACT team is part of the VA’s Housing First demonstration project. The team provides case management support to Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslovsky’s Project 60. Project 60 (a replication of Project 50) is an innovative partnership between VA GLA, community based non-profit organizations, and the Supervisor’s deputy, Flora Gil-Krisiloff. Project 60 uses HUD-VASH vouchers from the Housing Authority of the City Los Angeles (HACLA) in order to get chronically homeless and vulnerable Veterans into permanent supportive housing with access to comprehensive, wrap-around services. Supervisor Yaroslovsky provided county funding to support the efforts of the non-profit partners, including Ocean Park Community Center (Santa Monica), Step Up on Second (Hollywood), St. Joseph Center (Venice), and San Fernando Valley Community Mental Health Center (Van Nuys).The Hilton Foundation, working through the Corporation for Supportive Housing brought together financial assistance to help with move-in costs. Project 60 also collaborates with Hollywood’s Vulnerability Registry as part of the 100,000 Homes Campaign (an initiative of Community Solutions). HACLA has been a strong partner in this effort as well working to streamline the application and inspection processes and working closely with VA GLA to prioritize Veterans who are chronically homeless.
The first two days of this week federal offices in Washington, DC were closed due to Hurricane Sandy. USICH sends our condolences to those who lost loved ones. Our thoughts are with those who are struggling to recover from this disaster and for those working tirelessly in recovery efforts. To donate for the recovery effort via The American Red Cross, you can do so directly from their homepage: http://www.redcross.org/
Mark Horvath of InvisiblePeople.tv wrote this piece in the Huffington Post today about the power of social media that was used to help homeless services as they struggled to keep individuals safe in shelters during Hurricane Sandy - a powerful timeline of how people from across the country assisted in those in shelter or supportive housing during this disaster.
New Study about students experiencing homelessness
The University of Minnesota released a new study about the challenges and resiliency of students experiencing homelessness in the journal Child Development. This study examined academic achievement data for over 26,000 students in the Minneapolis Public Schools from third through eighth grades, comparing students identified as homeless or highly mobile with other students in the federal free meal program, reduced price meals, or neither. Achievement gaps appeared stable or widened between homeless or highly mobile students and lower risk groups. Math and reading achievement were lower, and growth in math was slower in years of homeless or highly mobile identification, suggesting acute consequences of housing instability. However, there is surprising resiliency: around 45% of homeless or highly mobile students scored within or above the average range in both math and reading despite their living situation. Results underscore the need for research on risk and resilience processes among homeless or highly mobile students to address achievement disparities.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), Office of Mental Health released a new toolkit for community providers to access on its website. The online toolkit provides information on mental health issues from a Veteran-specific focus, a whole host of information about military cultural competency for mental health providers and case managers, and gives information on how providers can connect with VA. The Office of Mental Health will be developing and releasing more fact sheets and guides for specific types of mental health needs in the coming months, so we encourage community providers to check back frequently for updated resources.