For nearly 10 years, the local NBC affiliate in Grand Rapids, Michigan — Wood TV — has hosted an annual awards program called Connecting with Community. The program honors individuals and organizations that have come together to address community needs, like food pantries and senior care. Earlier this month, this year’s winning partnership was announced: VA’s Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) program, Community Rebuilders and the Salvation Army Housing Assessment Program.
Since the three groups began collaborating in fall 2015, their efforts have housed more than 380 formerly homeless Veterans across Kent County, Michigan.
Before the partnership came to fruition, the local HCHV program in southwest Michigan was conducting outreach across the state to identify homeless Veterans with hopes of connecting them to available VA resources. Right down the street from the HCHV program, two other organizations were supporting a very similar mission.
Community Rebuilders and the Salvation Army Housing Assessment Program were working together to secure housing for local Veterans through grants awarded to the Salvation Army. The nonprofit Community Rebuilders helps homeless Veterans find safe, affordable housing and the Salvation Army program provides housing, food, and more short-term overnight lodging. By joining forces with VA, the organizations could reach even more Veterans across Michigan who needed housing assistance, such as those living in emergency shelters, in encampments and on the streets.
In addition to locating homeless Veterans, outreach team members from the three groups and from the Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program started meeting in a central location in the community on a weekly basis so that Veterans could receive a wider range of services in one place, at one time.
These types of grassroots alliances are at the heart of what is working to eradicate Veteran homelessness. By combining efforts, Community Rebuilders, the Salvation Army, and VA are making a greater impact than they could alone — and each is helping to fill the gaps in the other’s services. As just one example: VA can provide HUD-VASH vouchers to secure housing for Veterans while Community Rebuilders can pay for security deposits, and the Salvation Army can provide furniture and other move-in essentials.
Just as the three organizations in Michigan worked side by side to serve their local Veterans, groups in other communities can determine where their services overlap (and where they don’t) to make sure homeless Veterans in their area are getting the support they need. By learning from partnership success stories and implementing those solutions, every community across the nation can be part of the effort to end Veteran homelessness once and for all.
- Visit VA’s website to learn about employment initiatives and other programs for Veterans exiting homelessness.
- Refer Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless to their local VA Medical Center, where VA staff are ready to assist, or urge them to call 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).
Tiyanna (Whitt) Payne is a clinical social worker who is a graduate of Michigan State University with a master’s in clinical social work. Payne has worked at the Battle Creek VA Medical Center for five years, initially as a HUD-VASH social worker and later transitioned to the Health Care for Homeless Veterans program. She supervises HCHV and HUD-VASH program staff at five sites in southwest Michigan. She serves as the primary point of contact for health care for homeless Veterans continuum in the 22-county catchment area covered by the Battle Creek VA Medical Center.