Extending VA’s reach to prevent and end homelessness among Veterans


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The company that hires a once-homeless Veteran; the landlord who accepts her housing voucher; the faith-based group that helps furnish his new apartment; the foundation that shores up her finances; and the civic group that pays a visit to welcome him home.

These are just a few ways that organizations provide a fresh start to Veterans who are exiting homelessness. These collaborators are essential to VA’s success in preventing and ending homelessness among Veterans.

Communities across the United States count on the support of organizations of all types—businesses, nonprofit service providers, foundations and so many others—to help Veterans who are homeless, or one tough break away from it, secure well-paying employment, affordable housing, move-in essentials and more.

Collecting home basics for Veterans exiting homelessness

We know, for instance, that when some formerly homeless Veterans move to permanent housing, they do not yet have the resources to purchase basic essential items—mattresses, sheets and pots and pans—that make their house a home.

Collaborators like Military Outreach USA work with VA and local community partners fill the gaps. With more than 250 organizations and houses of worship in its direct network, and extended reach to 25,000 organizations, this national faith-based nonprofit is making sure Veterans leaving homelessness behind can start a new life in their new home.

Through its Veterans Exiting Homelessness program, Military Outreach USA works with organizations in its network to collect and distribute move-in essentials. During a Chicago-area pilot phase of this soon-to-be-national effort, Military Outreach USA collected over 6,000 items, valued at $12,000 to $15,000, to distribute to Veterans moving into homes. Additionally, through its Beds for Vets initiative, the organization solicits donations of $150 to provide Veterans with full-size beds, box springs and frames, sheets and pillows.

VA cannot end homelessness among Veterans on our own. But when entities like Military Outreach USA join us, Veterans win.

That’s why VA is also working with these groups:

  • AMVETS, which is providing Veterans with move-in essentials
  • YMCA, which is connecting Veterans to VA services and benefits in the areas of employment, homelessness, healthy lifestyle programming and community reintegration
  • The Elks, which committed $4 million over a four-year period to help end Veteran homelessness in Washington, D.C., Chicago and New York City
  • PenFed Foundation, which is helping prevent homelessness by providing emergency financial assistance for Veterans facing financial setbacks and are at risk of becoming homeless
  • The Chrysler Trust, which recently provided $750,000 toward Veteran homeless expenses in Los Angeles, Detroi, and Philadelphia

Providing move-in money

Veterans also can depend on groups like Veterans Matter, which, with the help of 20-plus celebrities raising money and awareness, has helped nearly 1,000 Veterans exit homelessness—all based on founder Ken Leslie’s single conversation with a VA homeless outreach coordinator back in 2012.

“She told me about the Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing program, known as HUD-VASH,” says Leslie. “My VA contact said our 35 local Veterans qualified for HUD-VASH vouchers, but many didn’t have the first month’s rent, security deposit, and other fees required by most private landlords to move in to a rental unit. That very night I created Veterans Matter, to raise the funds those Veterans needed to get housed.”

Actions like these, multiplied by willing allies across the country, are the reason that cities like Houston, New York, Philadelphia and so many others have announced that they’ve ended homelessness among Veterans. Nearly 900 city officials have in fact taken up the national “Mayors Challenge” to identify and house every Veteran who does not have a place to call home.

The insurance company, Progressive, even handed a Veteran at risk of homelessness the keys to a car, and six months of free insurance. As a result, she was able to get to work, earn her salary and stabilize her family’s housing situation.

Filling housing and employment needs

Collaborators like Progressive help VA plug service gaps that we know help end homelessness: transportation, affordable housing, employment and even legal services.

Homeless HiringThere are organizations like the Housing Partnership Network, whose members are building affordable housing for Veterans from Portland, Oregon, to Pittsburgh; and Goodwill Industries, which is offering hands-on job training to Veterans.

There are firms like Aerotek, Flagger Force Traffic Control, CORT, Progressive, Torani, MetLife, Publix, Task Management, HiEmployment, Staffmark, and many others that have met with VA’s community employment coordinators to collaborate on hiring job-ready Veterans exiting homelessness. And so has FASTPORT’s Trucking Track, which uses technology to help Veterans land the jobs that move America.

Others use their networks to help VA raise awareness about homelessness among Veterans. Real estate powerhouse Zillow recently drew attention to the need for more landlords to rent homes to Veterans who are exiting homelessness—even those with less-than-stellar credit histories. Zillow has also created the Community Pillar program to identify landlords willing to relax strict rules and house more Americans.

Author and entrepreneur Chris Gardner shared his story of being a homeless Veteran, lent many hours volunteering at a  VA Stand Down, and still works in multiple ways to draw attention to this issue. He even secured a $5,000 donation from Origami Owl to pay for critical resources to help end homelessness among the growing population of female Veterans.

Finding new allies

These alliances make all the difference in keeping Veterans permanently housed and gainfully employed. But their contributions do even more: Their grass-roots perspectives give us new ideas about ways to better serve Veterans who are homeless.

We salute all our current collaborators, who have joined us to provide vital services to make sure all Veterans have access to the best care and services available. We’re always on the lookout for new allies to enlist in this cause. Please join us by learning about VA’s homeless programs and by getting involved. You can also email our VA’s homeless Veterans’ outreach team and let us know how you want to help. For partnership opportunities beyond homelessness, please feel free to contact Rashi Venkataraman at rashi.venkataraman@va.gov

If you know a Veteran who is homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless, please refer him or her to a local VA Medical Center, where homeless coordinators are ready to help. Veterans and their families can also call 1-877-4AID-VET to be connected to VA services.

Thank you to all of our wonderful partners for the terrific job they do – day in and day out. We certainly can’t do it alone.


Image of Mark CollierOriginally from Michigan, Matthew S. Collier, serves as the senior advisor to the Secretary for Strategic Partnerships. Prior to joining VA, he served as an Infantry Officer in the U.S. Army, held major elective public office, and has worked in the private sector for over 20 years. Collier holds degrees from the United States Military Academy at West Point, as well as from Harvard University.  Following his graduation from West Point, and subsequent to his six years of service in the military, Collier served as the chief of staff for a U.S. Congressman, and was then elected as the youngest big city “strong” Mayor in the United States, serving as mayor of Flint, Michigan, from 1987 to 1991. Since that time, Collier has served in executive roles with a variety of high technology companies. These assignments have included over 13 years of president and CEO experience, company ownership, and executive stints in both private and public companies. Appointed by President Obama, Matt is currently serving as Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Strategic Partnerships.

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Comments

  1. Johnnie lee Childs    

    I have been waiting for almost 5 years everything is in my medical flies. But still I’m waiting and getting older. What can I do you call and call and the only thing that you get is an answer machine .Johnnie Childs

  2. Jerry D. Maulden    

    Dear Sirs
    I’m going out on a limb here. I was robbed of my Veteran’s benefits.. I used the home loan as soon as I could scrape together the ernest money, so the realtor would see what you guys said.
    After several yrs, I was dunned for the yearly taxes, which were supposed to be in the monthly payment. At the closing table the realtor and the closing company, told me about paying 100.00 a month each and every month to help pay off the principle early. We jump on it. Even paid a payment earlier than they asked for. We figured we were a month ahead in payments and after several years we figured we were well into paying off the principle. The mortgage co. sold are account. The second company was the company to demand tax payments. The taxes were supposed to be part of the monthly payments… THEY WERE IN THE CONTRACT!
    Ultimately we were argued into filing bankruptcy, and having done so we move out of the property. Several yrs later, I find out that I didn’t have to move… I didn’t have to lose my home… I wasn’t behind in payments… I wasn’t behind in taxes… Why did I lose my home to a bunch of thieves? Why did they get away with this? I feel so violated. I was robbed…
    I thank you now for any and all help in this matter… I am now living on disability, and there is a small farm I’m interested in, and I need your help. Do I still have zero down home loan benefits? Do I still have any benefits at all? Please help.

  3. C Brown    

    Veterans, stay together organize, help each other. We are United States Veterans. If we work together we will succeed. If we are separate we will not. Let’s fight for each other! Help each other, get the word out. We are a small percent of the population. Every veteran could be housed have health care and a pension for life for a small percent of the budget. Politicians get it. Veterans Unite.

  4. casey love    

    Just got out was told by e9 I wont get any disability. Hard to go to va here because its packed. The pain is so bad. Hard to be around people. Vs should only have vets work there.

  5. tangela hill    

    iam looking for housing my husband is a veteran i have been live sleep from people home i bont know my eye is very bad my health is not good please can help iambaltimore md i hope some this soon iam looking a house 3 bedroom and iam disable

  6. Richard Cummings    

    I was told that there were no programs to help me find affordable housing in the Los Angeles area because I have a job, even though it is a low paying job. Lucky for me my job has a locker room with showers. The average price of a 1 bedroom apt in this area is over $1500/mo. As a service connected disabled veteran I will just sleep wherever I can until the VA and others get serious about helping veterans that need and ask for the help. I have called the national hotline a couple of times and they send referrals to the local VA, takes them days to call me only to tell me they don’t have any programs for me. Sometimes I think I should just go down to skid row and lay on the sidewalk for a few days, maybe then they would help me.

  7. Everett Aubin    

    Conventional wisdom in R.I. is, it is not what the VA does that will kill you; it is what they don’t do. Add that to the number of lifers employed by the VA who think it is their job to make sure you do not get care you ask for and or torment you, whether or not you are a priority 1. I have experienced a doctor who blocked all medications of a priority 1 patient, including insulin. That patient had one shot left when the doctor freed only that script. Even the health tech argued with the Vet accusing the Vet of something the Vet was not doing. I saw a letter from the DAV in Washington suggesting the Vet write to the Office of Investigative Services about that and other situations. I have seen a Veteran advocate sitting at her desk reading a book and dismiss a Vet looking for assistance telling the Vet to see the other advocate (who was not in). That was done without the advocate even asking what the issue was with the Vet. Advocates don’t even contact the Vet subsequent to the Vet filing a complaint. A Vet has or may have no idea what the outcome is. Who the hell is a Veteran advocate “advocating” for if they don’t communicate with a Vet concerning the case? There is so much more ugliness it defies logic. One of the RI admin’s is doing time in prison. The VA is an adversarial system and doctors get bonuses for not referring.

    There are some excellent services and staff but for the most part it seems PCP’s are generally lacking and there is absolutely no accountability. PCP’s tend to be deliberately intimidating and, God forbid, you question their course of action. It can be more like bullying than professional behavior.

    From National, there is a new program being instituted allowing the Vet to have more say in their healthcare and the Vet’s family will be involved. There are going to be some bruised egos amongst doctors and one questions how to get that program moving with some doctors already abusing patients; never mind families. The program is supposed to do away with “The doctor knows best” mentality. It is not difficult to understand why it’s called “a practice” when you know that medical error is now the third leading cause of death in the U.S.:

    There is a systemic, negative attitude problem within the VA and until that is rooted out, no matter how much money Government throws at the VAMC’s, Veterans, in many situations, will still be scorned from the very system that is supposed to help.

    In a DAV publication from National, a naive intern was quoted as saying the national health care program should follow the VA’s model of healthcare. I don’t even understand how the DAV could publish such foolishness. Strange bedfellows.

    I am all for any program directed towards helping a Veteran but in a system with no accountability it is difficult to fix the problems, especially those that could do more harm to a Veteran than good. Consider how long it took for the VA to accept Agent Orange as a serious carcinogen. What they don’t do WILL kill you.

  8. Anita Cummins    

    I would like to assist with the homeless vet situation. I have enlisted family members, and my family home can be converted to house vets that need housing. I want to set up a non-profit organization to help. I have no idea how to start, and would like to know if there are resources to assist me.

  9. Murt C. Thompson    

    I am 64, a non-combat vet who was injured in the course and scope of my Air Force career- I have been officially homeless about since 2006 when I lost my last apartment due to the Economic Recession and my disability (Anxiety/Panic disorder, PTSD and Depression- all treated and kept stable by the VA-I also have DVT in both legs and have had Pulmonary Embolisms and am in a wheelchair due to higher chance of fracture rate because of more than average bone density loss. I don;t drive any longer. –I live in a hotel – and in one before this also, I can;t get into an apartment ANYWHERE -despite never having been either an alcoholic or a drug abuser, never been in trouble with the law, and despite having a college degree. I have asked for help from VA NUMEROUS times and am sent to various OTHER VA “help” outreach homeless vets program directors-whose offices rival Congressman’s -and I get NO help because I get SLIGHTLY (less than $1000) more than the amounts they have for cutoff of assistance into any apartment finding help. The same goes for organizations (all using the same standard rates) . So–here I am spending often 72-75% of my income JUST FOR HOUSING -and food is extra as well as my bills for storing what remains of my life. Talked to VA “Community Outreach” people- they get on the phone and send you right to their friends at various private COMMERCIAL nursing homes-but they have nothing else- and those commercial homes start at $2800 a month, which would leave me with just $100 – which clearly is impossible. When i mentioned this i was told “Sorry, can’t help you.”. Where are all the celebrities when it comes time to help a man who served his country, did NOT get into “trouble” and is disabled and in a wheelchair (that is falling apart after just one year because VA bought a cheap one instead of a good one) – and who tried to be a productive member of society for decades and never took the pension offered (I even tried to give it back to Congress decades ago to help other vets worse off than me) until I was forced to by rising disability as I aged and as my health declined due to lack of food and proper shelter for the past decade…I have slept in my car for months, and on a cheap sofa which hurt my back, I now have a decent place- but it costs me about 75% of my income just for the roof and amenities of a extended stay lower end hotel. IT’s better than the street- and I have fought my way back up again -but WHERE WAS THE VA IN ALL THIS? Wasting my time and limited resources going to appointments that in the end always ended up with them giving up or sending me to places i think they get kickbacks from- places that clearly cost more than i have (so why even refer me there except to pass the buck and get me out of their offices) or coming up with ridiculous alternatives such as sticking in in a 2 bed room with some stranger in a VA community living center or nursing home -where I would have NO privacy, no quality of life and no freedom. I SERVED FOR THE FREEDOM OF OTHERS- For Gods sakes where the hell is MY freedom? I served and faced down the Nuclear Threat on the Soviet Border- so others could be warm and happy and have their own things around them–WHERE IS MY HOME NOW? WHERE! VA doesn’t care!

  10. Junk Bin    

    only a slight improvement over the Vietnam Veterans treatment which was go away we want nothing to do with you.
    The last to get this type ofs aid are males. The females have had all sorts of special stuff available that males did not have. Rule of thumb, all vets get treated equally. No special programs by gender, race, or sexual perversion.
    We have to much special interest lobbying currently. The MOPH head went on a tirade about non shot vets putting in for disabilities. What an arse. You go in, get injured on active duty. You are a vet with a valid medical disability period. Just because you helped am enemy soldier earn his marksmanship badge does not give you any special boost over any other injured veteran.
    Either all vets get the benefit or non of us do. We all had an equal chance to get killed or maimed

  11. David Brown    

    I have received the same results from the Austin VA. My VA “social worker”, Kelli, doesn’t return calls either.

    Good luck to you, fellow Veteran.

  12. Aberrant Lawyer    

    BS (edited) if you are trying to end homelessness among Veterans. I was at the Houston VA and the outreach offices including the VA Outreach sponsored by the Salvation Army specifically for Veterans. The manager there makes $7500.00 every week. That is his salary. For what? He doesn’t return phone calls, he doesn’t try to find you work, he doesn’t give a (redacted) that you are cold and homeless without food. F(redacted) them!!! A Veteran.

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