USICH Blog

08/20/2013 - New Study Highlights SSVF Successes

By Sarah Mahin, a Presidential Management Fellow on a six-month assignment to USICH. Her full-time job is as a Regional Coordinator for VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. 

The Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) is VA’s new rapid re-housing and homelessness prevention program, which draws upon the strength of community agencies to provide focused, speedy, and flexible services to vulnerable Veterans and their families. In FY 2012, SSVF’s first year of operations, VA awarded competitive grants totaling nearly $60 million to 85 grantees across the country who in turn provide supportive services to very low-income Veteran families living in or transitioning to permanent housing. A recent report about SSVF’s first year reveals promising data on the effectiveness of the programs. Below are some highlights from that report.

SSVF successfully prevents and ends homelessness for Veteran families
Eighty-six percent of households that completed SSVF programs successfully exited to permanent housing.

SSVF is efficient
Approximately 21,100 Veteran households with over 35,000 adults and children received assistance at an average cost of about $2,800 per household. The median length of stay of services for those who exited during the first year was only 93 days, which indicates that short-term services can successfully end homelessness for many Veterans.

SSVF programs target Veterans with high levels of need
Sixty-four percent of households served were experiencing homelessness and 36 percent were imminently at-risk of homelessness. Seventy-five percent of households had incomes below 30 percent of area median income (extremely low income) and 46 percent of all adult participants had a disabling condition.

SSVF programs effectively serve younger Veterans and those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan
Sixteen percent of Veterans in SSVF programs served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Furthermore, SSVF serves a younger population than is found in the homeless Veteran population as a whole – 36 percent of SSVF Veterans were age 30 or younger compared to nine percent of all Veterans experiencing homelessness. 

SSVF is an important resource for female Veterans and Veterans with children
Fifteen percent of Veterans in SSVF programs were female – which is the highest proportion of women served out of all the VA homeless initiatives. Nearly 30 percent of SSVF households included dependents, with  SSVF programs serving 8,826 children.

SSVF programs connect Veterans to employment and increase incomes
Overall, average monthly incomes increased by 8.3 percent for participants who completed an SSVF program. Among those who exited, there was a:

  • 245 percent increase in the number of Veterans with VA Disability benefits
  • 205 percent increase in SSDI
  • 256 percent increase in SSI
  • 358 percent increase in VA pensions
  • 184 percent increase in Social Security retirement
  • 262 percent increase in TANF

In addition, 39 percent of SSVF programs provided employment assistance directly and another 37 percent referred participants to other employment programs. 

Veterans are satisfied with the SSVF services they receive
Perhaps the most important indicator, nearly 92 percent of Veterans served in SSVF programs stated that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the services they received.

While data is important to understanding the success of the programs, personal accounts help provide insight into the experiences of individual participants. A case manager shared the story of one Veteran who received assistance  through SSVF.

“Jim” was a struggling homeless Veteran who could not find permanent housing due to limited availability in the area, resistant landlords, zero income, unemployment, and a lack of cognitive mental abilities. Our SSVF case manager was able to quickly find permanent housing options, and convinced the landlord to permit Jim to reside there. Our team of case managers was able to successfully collaborate with the landlord and help them see how important housing was for this Veteran. Within 1 month of residence, the case manager was able to secure employment for Jim, thus providing future sustainability. Jim was also referred for continual mental health counseling in order to receive psycho-social education on PTSD, and for counseling on the negative effects of alcohol abuse. The most critical element to Jim’s success was the follow up and support our SSVF program was able to offer, using the Housing First approach.

To learn more about SSFV’s program, visit:

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