VA led 25 Cities Effort provides stable housing to homeless Veterans


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In March 2014, VA partnered with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH), to launch the 25 Cities Effort, a program designed to intensify and integrate efforts and resources to end Veteran homelessness in cities identified with high homeless Veteran populations. Philadelphia is one of those 25 Cities.

The Veterans Multi-Service Center is one of four Philly Vets Home non-profit partners that receives technical assistance through the 25 Cities Effort to mobilize local planning efforts, strengthen partnerships, and create effective and coordinated systems to end Veteran homelessness.

“I was not aware of all the housing programs [the Veterans Multi-Service Center] had, until I finally got connected with one of them. And since then it’s been a lot better; a lot better. It’s one of the best things that can happen,” said Thomas Green.

Before entering the Veterans Multi-Service Center’s Shelter Plus Care Program, Green, an Army Veteran who served from 1976 to 1983, had struggled with multiple episodes of homelessness spanning the past 20 years.

He bounced between various local shelters, including time spent at the Coatesville VA Domiciliary, before being housed through the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, only to be evicted after losing his income.

With the assistance and ongoing support of his SSVF case manager, Green found a stable home in the Veterans Multi-Service Center Shelter Plus Care Program. This program aids clients in maintaining housing stability by providing case management as well as other supportive services to address different health needs.

Collaboration between various VA programs has been integral to finding Green and Veterans like him stable housing and case management services. As a previous participant in SSVF, a current client of Perimeter, a homeless day program funded by the VA grant and per diem program, and having a community actively involved in the 25 Cities Effort, Green is a perfect example of how coordinated services produce positive results.

Unsurprisingly, Thomas Green’s outlook on the future has changed for the better since being housed: “[Housing] has just changed me 150 percent; it changed my whole outlook,” he said.

Green is now able to spend time focusing on his finances, health and employment instead of where he will spend the night, or where he will find his next meal.

“I can plan things now. I can see my family more. I don’t have to go around my family and worry about leaving at a certain time to get back to the shelter system. I don’t have to worry about the place giving out the food, I can go home and fix my own food. If I want to sit down and read the newspaper from back to front, which I like to do, I can do it.”

Housing provides freedom and stability. It provides a foundation from which other challenges can more easily be conquered. It is this belief that drives the sincere and passionate involvement in the Philadelphia 25 Cities Initiative and the Philly Vets Home Coalition.

Thomas Green and Delvin Brinson

Thomas Green (left) and Delvin Brinson

Another Veteran who faced struggles similar to Green and exited homelessness with a renewed commitment to improve his life is Delvin Brinson. Brinson has been, and continues to be, an inspiration to Green and many others.

Brinson, much like Green, enjoyed the structure and camaraderie he found while serving in the 2nd and 63rd Mechanized Division of the Army from 1979 to 1985.

Brinson began experiencing homelessness beginning in 1998. Through his involvement in the Veterans Multi-Service Center’s transitional housing program, he participated in job training and computer classes and has now moved into permanent housing and found employment through the program as a Veteran Outreach Specialist.

Today, Brinson is a key asset to the center’s outreach team due to his skill in building relationships and trust with other homeless Veterans through their shared experiences.

Brinson explained stating: “Once they hear my story and they look at themselves … and see that I’ve done it and I’m working with this organization, trying to explain to them that [we] can help them, then they begin to build a little trust.”

Both Green and Brinson agree that trust is paramount for getting homeless Veterans connected to service organizations, like the Philly Vets Home partners. These non-profit organizations, and federal and local government agencies, are able to give Veterans the services they deserve, but Veterans must trust these services and the staff they interact with in order to reach out for help. The two also expressed the need to better inform homeless Veterans of the services available at individual organizations and through the coalition more broadly.

The Philly Vets Home 2015 Coalition has placed approximately 1,100 Veterans into housing so far, an amazing achievement.  But there is still a lot to accomplish, especially considering the goal of ending Veterans’ homelessness in Philadelphia by Veterans Day 2015.

Still, as the coalition presses forward, it’s integral that the public and the broader community become a part of the mission. If the community comes together there will be even more good news stories to share, like those of Brinson and Green. Philly Vets Home partners believe that nobody who fought for this country should have to fight for housing, a job or the healthcare that they need and deserve.


Debby Derricks is the director of development for the Veterans Multi-Service Center in Philadelphia, Pa. Debby serves the organization in a dual capacity by managing communications and development efforts, specifically, event management and corporate partnerships. Her past work includes political campaign management, communications consulting and strategic marketing. She holds a BA in Political Science and Psychology from New York University and a Certificate in Politics from the University of Pennsylvania.

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Comments

  1. Debby Derricks    

    Participants in the 25 Cities Initiative include – Atlanta • Baltimore • Boston • Chicago • Denver • Detroit • Fresno • Honolulu • Houston • Las Vegas • Los Angeles • Miami • New Orleans • New York City • Orlando • Philadelphia • Phoenix • Portland • Riverside • San Diego • San Francisco • Seattle • Tampa • Tucson • Washington, DC

    You can find more information about the initiative here: http://www.25cities.com

    Or about the coalition in Philadelphia here: PhillyVetsHome.org

  2. Pamela Hoback    

    I also am very interested in finding out where the 25 cities participating in this housing program are. Why aren’t they listed in the article? That is the actual reason I even clicked on this to read it. I am a Department Commander for the Polish Legion of American Veterans in Florida. I would sure like to know where the heck these 25 cities are. We have homeless veterans living under bridges and in tent cities in mosquito infested mangrove areas and wooded inland areas all over Florida. I know that the VA gave the St Vincent De Paul organization 6 million dollars for a new shelter for homeless Veterans, but it will be years and perhaps decades before the facility comes to completion. Where do we send homeless Vets? Right now the burden is on generic shelters all over Florida usually associated with some religious affiliation. A veteran is just another homeless person to them and they will certainly serve them. American Legion which I am a life member of donates regularly to a shelter in our Community because we know that homeless veterans go there, but the money would be better served if it could go directly to a shelter specifically for Vets. Veterans deserve much better. It is shameful that we don’t have more places dedicated to Veterans. Help me out here. What are the 25 cities?

    1. 25 Cities Team    

      Good afternoon,
      Thank you for viewing the article and for posting your response. We wanted to let you know that we recently sent you an email to tell you more about the 25 Cities Effort and to answer some of the questions you had.

      The 25 Cities Effort is a key Federal strategy through which 25 communities are receiving technical assistance and are mobilizing local planning efforts and partnerships to create effective systems for aligning housing and services interventions through coordinated systems to end homelessness. Currently in each of the cities, a system is being built to address many of the concerns that you cite are happening in your area. Processes are being implemented on the ground in each city to identify the homeless Veterans and to go out into the community and find each of the Veterans in order to connect them to the services that they need and deserve. Many community providers meet regularly to discuss how to best implement this process in their own communities and who best to connect the Veteran to depending on their needs. Whether it be housing, income support, employment search, healthcare, or array of other needs, the systems are being built to ensure that each Veteran gets back on their feet.

      We included more information in our email to you, but feel free to email 25cities@atlasresearch.us if you have other questions.

      Thank you!

  3. Darrell Myers    

    Where are those 25 cities your talking about. I know here in Denver the VA, VOA and RMHS are sending veterans to us, The American Legion to get help, stating that they don’t have money to put the veteran up with short term shelter. Even when there is a family of minor children involved. Seems like they don’t have money to pay the deposit on permanent shelter when a veteran get a place.

    What gives?

    1. 25 Cities Team    

      Good afternoon,
      Thank you for viewing the article and for posting your response. As you may have seen in the responses below, the 25 Cities include: Atlanta • Baltimore • Boston • Chicago • Denver • Detroit • Fresno • Honolulu • Houston • Las Vegas • Los Angeles • Miami • New Orleans • New York City • Orlando • Philadelphia • Phoenix • Portland • Riverside • San Diego • San Francisco • Seattle • Tampa • Tucson • Washington, DC.

      We would love to connect you to someone in Denver who can assist with the issues you are seeing in your community and provide more information specific to Denver. If you get a chance, email us at 25cities@atlasresearch.us and reference this post and we will make sure you get connected.

      Thank you!

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