Since 2010, homelessness among Veterans has decreased by nearly 50 percent. However, this progress is not evenly distributed nationwide. Communities across the country face unique challenges in their work to end Veteran homelessness and have developed different, innovative solutions. To capture and share some of the practices that appear to work best, the VA Homeless Programs Office established a workgroup that examines promising practices from VA medical centers (VAMCs) across the country and shares their findings in white papers. By making the white papers available to other VAMCs, stakeholders, and now the general public, VA intends to increase communities’ access to best practices so that positive outcomes can be replicated.
As a member of the workgroup, our main charge is to look throughout VHA Homeless Programs to identify new, emerging and innovative practices — specifically those that have evidence to support that they could have an important impact in homeless program operations. Promising practices include methods for improving patient care outcomes, innovative partnerships VAMCs have forged with community organizations, and ways to create efficiencies within homeless programs, to name a few.
When a member of the workgroup identifies a successful practice that can be repeated, we summarize the practice and its implementation process in a brief, digestible white paper, which is then disseminated among VAMC homeless program coordinators. The white papers are intended to highlight the key points of the implementation for homeless program coordinators, so they can quickly grasp the process and see how they could use the practice at their medical center.
The topics covered in these white papers include best practices such as using highly trained peer support specialists to effectively engage Veterans on the street, preparing a standardized disaster plan to ensure Veteran safety, connecting high barrier Veterans to housing using Peer Housing Location Assistance Groups (PHLAG), and more.
The hope is that, in identifying these really important practices that otherwise people might not have heard about, we can spread some of these ideas across homeless programs throughout VA.
If you are interested in learning more about how VA is improving operations to better serve homeless Veterans in your area, click here to browse all of the published white papers. Make sure to check back often, as new white papers are added regularly.
About the Author
Shawn Liu is a Program Analyst for Clinical Operations in the VHA Homeless Program Office and lead of the Homeless Program Office’s Innovative Practices Workgroup.