New Funds to End Veteran Homelessness: What Communities Should Know about the $600 Million SSVF Funding Opportunity
On Tuesday, January 14, 2014, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced up to $600 million in new funds available for the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program. The Notice of Funding Availability (NOFA) includes up to $300 million in FY 2014 funds and $300 million in FY 2015 funds.
Overview of SSVF
SSVF has been critical to progress on ending Veteran homelessness. The program delivers prevention for Veterans and their families at-risk of homelessness, and rapid re-housing for Veterans and their families experiencing homelessness. These services can include support services like landlord mediation, housing placement support, case management, making connections to benefits, and employment assistance. SSVF providers can also deliver short-term financial assistance, such as rental assistance, funds for damage deposits, paying off past utilities, or helping to resolve debts that impede housing stability for Veterans and their families.
The growth in this program is based on its remarkable success: for Veterans who exited the program in FY 2012, 86 percent had a successful housing outcome, at an average cost of only $2,800 per household.
VA awards SSVF grants to private nonprofit organizations and consumer cooperatives that assist very low-income Veterans and families. Individual Veterans and Veteran families must have household income at or below 50% of the area median income in their community to be eligible.
The FY 2014-FY 2015 SSVF Funding Opportunity
Existing SSVF programs can apply to renew funding, and new applicants can propose programs to serve very-low income Veterans and their families. Below is a summary of Priority levels, guiding questions for applicants, and CoC considerations for letters of support.
Overview of Priority Levels
To distribute funding to address the highest levels of need, applications are divided into Priority 1, 2, and 3, based on whether programs are proposing to serve identified high-need communities (Priority 1), submitting renewal applications (Priority 2), or are first-time applicants in other areas (Priority 3).
The table below summarizes the definition, funding availability, and application requirements for Priority 1, 2, and 3 applications:
*A list of the 76 high-need CoCs along with the available 3-year funding available for each CoC is found on page 2539 in the NOFA.
** To qualify under Priority 2, a SSVF grantee’s proposed program concept must be substantially the same as the current program concept.
Guiding Questions for Applicants
We recommend that programs carefully review the scoring criteria found in the NOFA and in related Federal Regulations. Below, we provide an overview of the scoring criteria with the total number of points available in each criterion and some guiding questions to help address each criterion in the application.
Background, experience, qualifications, and past performance (35 points)
- What kind of experience does the program and partners have in providing services to individuals (and Veterans specifically) experiencing or at-risk of homelessness?
- What kind of qualifications and experience does the program staff have in supporting Veterans experiencing or at-risk of homelessness?
- Does the program or partners have experience with Housing First?
- For programs that have been in existence for some time, what outcomes or measurable results has it achieved?
Program concept and supportive services plan (25 points)
- Using data, what is the need of very low-income Veterans in the program’s community?
- What is the program’s and partners’ plan for finding, screening and assisting program participants (in coordination with other community and VA resources)?
- Does the plan use models such as Housing First or Critical Time Intervention?
- What services does the program and partners offer to participants?
Quality assurance and evaluation plan (15 points)
- Given community need, what outcomes does the program or partners expect to achieve?
- How will performance be measured?
- What happens if the program and partners do not achieve the desired outcomes?
Financial capability and plan (15 points)
- What is the rationale behind the program budget? What assumptions are contained within the budget?
- How will the program and partners track the use of grant funds and ensure program compliance?
Area and community linkages and relations (10 points)
- What is the program’s relationship to local services providers and the Continuum of Care?
- What is the program’s and partners’ relationship with local VA homeless services?
Considerations for Continuums of Care (CoC)
To promote planning and coordination efforts between Veteran programs and the CoC, the NOFA emphasizes linkages between SSVF programs and the local CoC by requiring Priority 1 applicants (and strongly encouraging Priority 2 and 3 applicants) to obtain a letter of support from its local CoC.
Since CoCs in Priority 1 communities may endorse only up to two applicants, organizations may want to consider applying jointly as partnerships or consortia and describe the structure and relationships of the joint efforts.
To help CoCs provide an endorsement for prospective SSVF applicants, VA has created a Pre-Application Review Template and Tool. Use of the tool template and tool is voluntary, but can be helpful in planning a letter of support for the SSVF applicant.
Communities interested in applying can find the NOFA announcement, training, and application information at http://www.va.gov/homeless/ssvf.asp. The NOFA announcement provides detailed information on the funding opportunity, including information on eligibility, application and submission, award review and administration, and contact information. In addition, detailed information regarding application criteria may be found in 38 CFR 62.21–.25.
Applicants may also be interested in listening to an audio recording or viewing the presentation slides (PDF) webinar on this year’s NOFA hosted by VA. Applicants may also register here for free NOFA training offered in selected cities.