02/25/2013 - Making Stronger Connections for Veterans: Questions to Ask of Your Community to Accelerate Progress

I was recently asked to meet with the Department of Veterans Affairs Advisory Committee on Homeless Veterans, so I prepared a presentation on the efforts USICH had underway with our Federal, State, and local partners related to preventing and ending homelessness among Veterans. During my presentation and discussion with this key group of leaders within VA, I also wanted to engage in a dialogue about what they were seeing in their communities: both the ways VA programs were working together and how community organizations can connect with VA to accelerate progress.  

I posed these questions:

  • How could VA outreach to Veterans who aren’t connecting to Veterans Affairs Medical Centers (VAMCs)? How could community organizations help VAMCs make these connections?
  • How could VAMCs use the 2013 street count process to connect VA to every unsheltered Veteran? How could community organizations help?
  • How could VAMCs improve targeting of programs to ensure that Veterans are receiving the right intervention for their needs? How could community organizations help?
  • How could VAMCs accelerate adoption of Housing First practices? How could community organizations help?
  • How does VA increase effectiveness of VA’s Grant and per Diem-funded programs to increase successful discharges to permanent housing, make stronger program connections to unsheltered Veterans, and to reduce the length of stay for Veterans in their transitional housing programs?  What lessons have been learned by other transitional housing providers that might be helpful?
  • How could VAMCs better integrate with mainstream and community resources? How could community organizations help VAMCs make these connections? 

Not one organization or agency has all the answers to these important questions, but it’s critical that we pose them—within our own organizations and amongst community leaders working to end Veteran homelessness. Taking a look at how programs, agencies, and organizations are working together now and searching for new solutions to barriers is a crucial step forward. By working together in each and every community, we might be able to determine a better course and accelerate our progress to end Veterans homelessness by 2015. It’s time to ask the tough questions.

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