United States Interagency Council On Homelessness Report .

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United States Interagency Council on HomelessnessReport to Congress on Homeless VeteransDecember 2012

USICH Report to Congress on Homeless VeteransPurposeAs requested by the Senate Committee on Appropriations,1 this report provides an assessment by theU.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) of the progress of the Department of Housing andUrban Development and Department of Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program andof efforts to address homelessness experienced by Veterans in rural communities and on NativeAmerican reservations.Overview of Homelessness among VeteransAccording to HUD’s 2011 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, 67,495 Veterans experiencedhomelessness on the night of the annual homeless Point-in-Time (PIT) count for January 2011. Thismarks a 12 percent decrease from the number of Veterans experiencing homelessness in the January2010 PIT count.2 The decline in Veteran homelessness—particularly given the weak economic recoveryand the increased number of Veterans returning from Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom,and New Dawn—is a testament to the unprecedented level of collaboration across Federal agencies andto the increased investment in effective homeless assistance programs, particularly HUD-VASH.National data from the annual PIT count suggests that Veteran homelessness is heavily concentrated inthe urban centers of populous states. Some states have a disproportionate share of Veteransexperiencing homelessness when compared to their total Veteran population. More than half (52percent) of Veterans who experience homelessness were located in California, New York, Florida, andTexas, whereas only 28 percent of all Veterans live in these states. Veterans who are experiencinghomelessness and using shelters are also more likely to live in urban areas.3 Although only 31 percent ofall Veterans live in principal cities, 68 percent of sheltered Veterans experiencing homelessness werelocated in principal cities.4Because rural Veterans experiencing homelessness are not easily identifiable and not engaged inservices, it is difficult to capture an accurate picture of the number of Veterans experiencinghomelessness in rural communities. A lack of affordable rental housing can be a serious problem in ruralareas. Many low-income rural households live in overcrowded housing with friends or family, or live insubstandard housing. Veterans are more likely than non-Veterans to live in rural areas,5 and Veterans inrural areas tend to be older and in worse health than Veterans in urban areas.6According to the 2010 Annual Homeless Assessment Report, Native Americans represent 0.7 percent ofthe total population of Veterans but represent 2.5 percent of Veterans experiencing homelessness.7Native American Veterans may be at greater risk of homelessness because, compared to non-Hispanicwhite Veterans they are more likely to be unemployed, less likely to have health insurance, and moreU.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness1

likely to forego needed medical care.8 Additionally, there is a severe lack of adequate and affordablehousing for Native Americans living on reservations.9Federal Plan to End Veteran Homelessness by 2015In 2010, USICH released Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent and End Homelessness, whichoutlines a set of four goals, including the goal to prevent and end homelessness among Veterans by2015. Opening Doors aligns with the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Five-Year Plan to Prevent and EndHomelessness among Veterans. Ending Veteran homelessness requires a coordinated federal responseand an increased and strategic investment in programs that have demonstrated success in preventingand ending homelessness.USICH is working with federal agencies and local communities on adopting a Veteran-centric approachto ending homelessness that will help Veterans and their families return to housing quickly and providethem the specific level of assistance and services they need to remain in housing. In August 2011, USICHand the Departments of Veterans Affairs, Housing and Urban Development, Health and Human Services(HHS), and Defense sponsored an Expert Panel on Homeless Veterans of Operations Enduring Freedom,Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn. The panel documented research-based knowledge, field experience,and best practices in meeting the needs of Veterans returning from recent wars. The guiding principlesand action steps that emerged from this panel, including coordinating with community-basedorganizations and targeting more support to Veterans’ families, have helped inform our interagencyapproach to ending Veteran homelessness.10 Collaborations between federal partners that use effectiveVeteran-specific and mainstream resources and coordinate between VA service providers andContinuums of Care (CoCs), will enhance the commitment to setting and measuring incremental targetson the path to ending Veteran homelessness.11One approach that reduces Veteran homelessness is increasing the supply of permanent supportivehousing for Veterans with disabilities, especially those who experience chronic homelessness.Consequently, the President and Congress have been increasing investment in HUD-VASH voucherssince 2008. The HUD-VASH program is jointly administered by HUD and VA. HUD funds the permanentrental subsidy provided through Public Housing Agencies (PHA), and VA funds case management andclinical services provided through VA Medical Centers. HUD-VASH vouchers are prioritized for Veteranswho are experiencing chronic homelessness, who have disabilities, who have long histories ofhomelessness and health factors that make them particularly vulnerable to living in shelters or on thestreets, and for Veteran families with children, particularly Veterans of Operations Enduring Freedomand Iraqi Freedom.Veterans with limited barriers to self-sufficiency who do not require the level of intensive supportservices provided by the HUD-VASH program can use interim rental assistance and related services tofind and maintain housing in their communities. VA has significantly increased its investment in interimrental assistance through the Supportive Services for Veterans Families (SSVF) program, which providesU.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness2

services to prevent homelessness for at-risk Veterans and to rapidly re-house Veterans who arehomeless.Additionally, VA has also increased its investment in flexible rental assistance with supports within itsexisting homeless programs. The Grant and Per Diem Program (GPD) is one of VA’s largest homelessassistance programs, with approximately 14,000 beds. Through the GPD program, VA funds communityagencies to provide supportive housing (for up to 24 months) and supportive services for Veteransexperiencing homelessness. GPD assistance is awarded through a competitive application process.Historically GPD programs have tended to provide housing and services in congregate facilities. Many ofthese facilities were designed to serve single male Veterans and it is difficult to update these facilities toserve the increasing number of female Veterans and Veterans with families experiencinghomelessness.12 VA is addressing this issue by encouraging GPD applicants to adopt a transition-in-place(TIP) model. Under the TIP model, the GPD program provides short- to medium-term rental assistanceand supportive services for Veterans—including families with children—for a specific duration of time.After the household is stabilized, the Veteran can remain in the rental unit, without rental assistance, asthe leaseholder. On September 19, 2012, VA announced that of the 38 GPD grants it awarded in the2012 competition, worth a total of 28.4 million, 31 will serve Veterans using the TIP model.Federal agencies are also working to identify best practices for using rental assistance and othersupports to prevent homelessness among Veterans. HUD currently is administering the 10 millionVeterans Homeless Prevention Demonstration Program at five sites in collaboration with the VA and theDOL. This is a three-year demonstration designed to explore ways HUD can offer early interventionhomelessness prevention for Veterans, primarily Veterans returning from the wars in Iraq andAfghanistan. The lessons learned will be important in addressing the unique needs of homelessVeterans and will support efforts to identify, reach, and assist them to regain and maintain housingstability in both rural and urban areas. An evaluation of the program will also provide HUD withadditional information to inform programs addressing means of preventing homelessness amongVeterans in the future.The first objective of Opening Doors is to provide and promote collaborative leadership at all levels ofgovernment and across all sectors, including collaboration between VA and local homeless servicesystems. Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) Homeless Summits bring together VISN homelesscoordinators and other key VA staff with the leaders of local homeless service systems, PHAs, andgovernment officials in their catchment area. In FY 2012, as of June 25, there have been a total of 144VISN Homeless Summits, more than twice the number held in FY 2011. The goal of these summits is toincrease collaboration among VA and local homeless service systems, identify service gaps andopportunities for improvement in local plans to end Veterans homelessness, and improve the targetingand administration of services for Veterans experiencing homelessness.Increased collaboration has also helped communities align their local plans to end homelessness withthe VA’s Five-Year Plan to End Homelessness among Veterans. In 2011, New Orleans released its 10-YearU.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness3

Plan to End Homelessness, which was developed with input from federal and local VA staff. InSeattle/King County, the Committee to End Homelessness added a representative of the regionalVeterans Administration to its ranks and invited the Washington State Department of Veterans Affairs tojoin in its coordinated planning process. This collaboration yielded the King County Five-Year Plan to EndVeteran Homelessness by 2015 through coordinated federal, state, and local investment.Opening Doors also calls for better service coordination and targeted outreach strategies to engageVeterans. Some Veterans are unaware of VA services, programs, and benefits for which they are eligible,or they may be reluctant to use such services.13 It is critical to properly assess the needs of Veteransexperiencing homelessness and to connect them with the effective job training, employment programs,and other supportive services they need to help reduce their financial vulnerability to homelessness.Finally, Opening Doors emphasizes the importance of collecting quality, timely data on homelessness tomeasure our progress in accomplishing our goals. Starting in 2011, HUD began requiring communities toconduct counts of homeless veterans in unsheltered locations. This information is currently beingreported by all Continuum of Care (CoC) systems and allows HUD to produce national estimates ofunsheltered homeless Veterans without the use of statistical adjustments. Previously, communitieswere not required to count Veterans in unsheltered locations, and thus earlier estimates used statisticaltechniques to account for missing data on unsheltered homeless Veterans. Beginning with the January2013 PIT Count, HUD will require communities to report on the number of homeless women veterans inunsheltered locations. Also, in the summer 2011, HUD and VA launched a collaborative effort to makesure VA residential programs for homeless Veterans were included in each CoC’s inventory of beds forhomeless people. Representatives from CoCs and Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISNs) led thiseffort at the local level.HUD-VASH is a Key Tool in Ending Homelessness among VeteransOverviewThe HUD-VASH program combines Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) rental assistance for Veteransexperiencing homelessness provided by HUD with case management and clinical services provided byVA. At the local level, the HUD-VASH program operates as a collaborative effort between VA MedicalCenters (VAMCs) and local Public Housing Agencies (PHAs). The VAMC identifies Veterans who areeligible for the program and refers them to the PHA to receive a HUD-VASH voucher. The PHA providesthe rental subsidy, and the VAMC provides case management and clinical services.Incremental HUD-VASH vouchers—new vouchers that Congress funds through the appropriationsprocess—are awarded based on the number of Veterans reported to be experiencing homelessness ineach community, the capacity and performance of local VAMCs and PHAs, and the overall geographicdistribution of vouchers. HUD-VASH vouchers are allocated through a collaborative approach betweenHUD and VA, which relies on three sets of data: HUD’s Point-in-Time data submitted by CoCs, VAMCdata on the number of contacts with homeless Veterans, and performance data from PHAs and VAMCsU.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness4

(namely the referral rates and lease-up rates of partnering agencies that have received HUD-VASHfunding in previous years).Established in 1992, HUD-VASH initially was funded and administered as a demonstration program withrequirements that were very different from the current program. Between 1992 and 1994, HUDcompetitively awarded 1,753 vouchers to 35 PHAs, which were required to issue the vouchers to eligibleVeterans during the vouchers’ five-year contract term. At that time, HUD did not have a means to trackthe vouchers, but VA tracked the vouchers’ use through reports submitted by VA clinicians. From 1994to 2007 as Veterans left the program, the vouchers were no longer funded as HUD-VASH vouchers.From 2008 to 2012, Congress has funded an additional 48,400 HUD-VASH vouchers (Table 1). As ofMarch 2012, more than 31,200 Veterans lived in HUD-VASH supportive housing.14 The expansion