Changes to VA Grant and Per Diem Program

written by Kathryn Monet
March 1, 2016

In the push to end veteran homelessness, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) operates a continuum of programs designed to address a variety of veteran needs associated with housing stability. Its Grant and Per Diem (GPD) program has provided time-limited transitional housing to veterans for decades.

Many GPD providers have deep expertise in serving homeless veterans and strong connections to their communities and local VA medical centers (VAMC).  However; as housing solutions have changed over time, so too has the GPD Program. Today, VA announced programmatic changes that are expected of GPD grantees to help even more homeless veterans transition into permanent housing. These changes, which we will cover in greater detail in several upcoming blogs, mainly focus on ensuring that grantees are working with their local Continuum of Care (CoC) and VAMC partners to make data-driven decisions to offer the most appropriate program model to local veterans.

What does this mean for GPD providers? It means that it's a good time to take a second look at the programs and services you are offering veterans, starting with your program models.

VA’s three suggested program models are:

  • Bridge Housing: Emphasizes short stays, quick connection to permanent housing and necessary supportive services and benefits;
  • Service-Intensive Transitional Housing: Emphasizes slightly longer stays paired with intensive services and supports to address a veteran’s barriers to achieving permanent housing; or
  • Transition-in-Place: Time-limited transitional housing assistance where the veteran takes over the lease as their permanent housing.

While some GPD programs already fit into these categories, some may need to think through changes that could be made to programs and services offered.  Here are several key themes from the announcement that GPD grantees, and others providing housing and supportive services to homeless veterans, should take into account:

Permanent Housing as a Primary Program Outcome

A key component of VA’s work to end veteran homelessness has centered around a shift to the Housing First model, which focuses on helping veterans sustain low-barrier permanent housing as soon as possible, with supportive services delivered as needed and desired. The US Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) has published a Housing First Checklist to help providers determine whether their programs employ a Housing First Approach.

Homelessness Should Be Brief, and Nonrecurring

The goal of every program should be to keep a veteran’s episode of homelessness as brief as possible while ensuring that each veteran, and their families, get connected to benefits and services as needed.  This means that service needs should not delay entry into permanent housing, and that service-intensive transitional housing should only be provided in limited instances.  This also means that veterans and their families should end up in a stable housing situation, with income sufficient to sustain their placement and prevent the recurrence of homelessness. 

Data-Driven Program Decisions

Data is important when it comes to understanding the impact of your program on the housing stability of the veterans you serve.  It is also critical when it comes to measuring   your community’s efforts to end homelessness.  Data allows for providers both independently, and in collaboration with local CoC and VAMC partners, to make informed decisions about the types of services that would best meet the needs of their community. This means that providers should be working with CoC and VAMC partners to understand available data on homeless veterans in their community, and use that same data to identify and address any service gaps that exist. 

What does this mean for GPD providers?  Now is a great time to re-examine the services and programs you are offering homeless veterans in the context of these themes.  It is important to understand the needs of the veterans in your community, along with the role your program can play in a community response that meets those needs.