Local Solutions to Assisting Veterans with Move-In Costs in HUD-VASH
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) continue to target chronically homeless single adults for permanent, supportive housing through the HUD/VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program. As with other Housing Choice Vouchers, HUD-VASH provides funding so that no more than thirty percent (30%) of a recipient’s adjusted income goes towards housing costs. While the HUD VASH program provides on-going rental assistance, a Veteran is expected to find other means of support to cover initial move-in costs. Move-in costs can include first and last month’s rent and security deposit. Move-in costs continue to be a barrier in some communities that may delay the Veteran’s ability to move into his/her apartment. Some communities have overcome this obstacle through local initiatives. USICH has conducted an informal survey and below is a report on how a few communities have found ways to provide funding to Veterans for move-in costs.
Northwestern Ohio/Michigan and Houston: Beginning in February, 2012 a local grassroots organization called 1Matters used established connections with music personalities John Mellencamp and ZZ Top to form a “60,000 Solders Housed” campaign through a program they started called “Veterans Matter” (http://www.veteransmatter.org/). Together they began raising funds and awareness to assist HUD VASH recipients with move-in costs. This low overhead agency based in Toledo, Ohio quickly turns around requests from Veterans who are in possession of a HUD VASH voucher and have a lease to provide first month and down-payment costs. Turn around is often the same day so that a Veteran can have check in hand to sign a lease and get off the streets in to a HUD VASH supported unit. At the end of 2012, through leadership from Dusty Hill of ZZ Top, Veterans Matter has expanded into the Houston, Texas area and raised $40,000 in two weeks to set up resources for homeless Veterans in Southern Texas. To date the Veterans Matter program has housed 42 veteran families in 12 cities in three states at an average cost of $614.
Atlanta: The challenge of move-in costs for Veterans receiving HUD VASH vouchers was brought to the attention of civic and philanthropic leaders in Atlanta as part of the Project Homeless Connect and Stand Down events organized by the homeless service providers and VA. Mayor Kasim Reed brought the local United Way to the table and together they established a fund that could be drawn down by homeless Veterans seeking move-in assistance.
Hennepin County, MN: Organized through the Minneapolis/Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness, Veterans seeking assistance with move-in costs can apply for funding through the State Soldiers Fund. This state-run Veterans fund has funding to provide move-in costs for HUD-VASH recipients along with other non-VASH Veterans who need move-in assistance. However, the time frame from request to availability of funds averaged 30 days which often would be an impediment to rapid re-housing. The Minneapolis/Hennepin County Office to End Homelessness stepped in and raised funds from local philanthropy to provide the bridge funding to move the process forward. These funds, which are administered by a local non-profit, can pay for application fees, help guarantee funds from the State Soldiers Fund, and provide one time assistance if needed. This collaboration between local city officials and the State Veterans program was able to capitalize on the more nimble local providers together with the more robust state funding. A similar program that placed the local providers at the hub of the State-VA collaboration has also been going on successfully in Phoenix, Arizona.
These three approaches exemplify separate locally-driven solutions to overcoming the barrier of move-in costs that can slow down or even impede successful housing for homeless Veterans receiving HUD-VASH vouchers. While other VA lines of business such as Supportive Services for Veterans Families and HUD’s Emergency Solutions Grant can be drawn upon for federal assistance with move-in costs for homeless Veterans, these communities identified local solutions that do not rely on Federal dollars. In addition, these interventions raise community awareness about the needs of homeless Veterans and allows for local citizens to participate in the President’s goal of ending homelessness for Veterans by 2015.
For other examples of creative solutions to paying for move-in expenses in the HUD-VASH program see HUD’s HUD-VASH Best Practices Guide