Over the last five years, we have witnessed how critical partnerships and evidence-based strategies are to solving complex social problems like Veteran homelessness.
Thanks to our collective efforts with partner organizations and strategies informed by data, there has been a 47 percent reduction in Veteran homelessness across the United States since 2010. There has been a 17 percent decrease between 2015 and 2016 — four times the previous year’s decline.
These unprecedented accomplishments show that the policies we developed and implemented with guidance from community partners and experts in academia and VA’s National Center on Homelessness Among Veterans are working. Today, there is nearly universal agreement that communities across the United States can build the infrastructure — in partnership with VA and other organizations —to ensure that every Veteran who becomes homeless can be rapidly connected to stable housing.
In fact, three states — Connecticut, Delaware and Virginia — and more than 30 communities have done just that, effectively ending homelessness among Veterans by identifying homeless Veterans by name and putting them on the pathway to rapidly securing permanent housing. Each of those communities also has a system in place to help newly homeless and at-risk Veterans become or remain stably housed with assistance from VA, VA’s grantees or other organizations.
We’re not yet there in every community, though, so our job is not done. As a result, I recently charged all VA staff and partners to undertake a surge in each community to house as many homeless Veterans as possible over the next 30 days. I encourage every VA employee, partner organization and community supporter to join us by redoubling your efforts to help Veterans exit homelessness immediately.
Whether you are a VA employee, local homeless service provider, VA grantee or public housing authority, we are calling on you to be part of the solution. Especially during this critically important time of year, when temperatures in many parts of the country can plunge to dangerous lows, you can help us accelerate our efforts to help Veterans in need secure permanent housing through these targeted strategies.
- Increase permanent housing placements. We can increase the number of Veterans moving from the streets into permanent housing over the next 30 days by:
- Fully utilizing all project-based housing units for Veterans, such as those available through Department of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers.
- Increasing the rate of permanent housing placements from VA’s Health Care for Homeless Veterans contract residential services and Grant and Per Diem programs.
- Maximizing the rate of rapid-rehousing in the Supportive Services for Veteran Families Program.
- Provide the right services at the right time. We can prioritize unsheltered Veterans for immediate placement into safe housing by:
- Ensuring that those who enter community homeless response systems require that level of assistance.
- Ensuring that Veterans are appropriately targeted for the HUD-VASH program.
- Reserving VA’s homeless Veteran residential services for only those Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless.
- Maximize VA resources. We can ensure staff and bed resources are available to help make the 30-day surge successful by:
- Ensuring full utilization of homeless Veteran residential program beds by Veterans who need them.
- Ramping up VA and volunteer staff to support the effort.
- Engage with your community. Partnerships are critical to continued success. We can all:
- Encourage landlords and developers to target units to homeless Veterans.
- Engage Community Veteran Engagement Boards.
- Participate in Operation Reveille events in your community to house homeless Veterans immediately.
- Join your local HUD continuum of care in enumerating homeless persons during the upcoming point-in-time Count and ensuring that homeless Veterans are accurately identified and rapidly housed.
While our achievements since 2010 have been significant, we cannot rest until every homeless Veteran has permanent housing. I believe strongly that our collective efforts can help accelerate the pace of progress towards our goal.
I encourage all VA staff and partners to support and participate in this important 30-day surge effort to help as many Veterans as possible exit homelessness.