VA Expands Program to Provide Services for Veteran Families

written by Kay Moshier McDivitt
February 26, 2014

The 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report (AHAR) to Congress released last December reported that veteran homelessness had declined by 8 percent between 2012 and 2013 and by 24 percent since 2009. Nevertheless, communities still have a lot of work ahead of them to meet the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) goal of ending veteran homelessness by the end of 2015.

Now, the VA is providing assistance to communities by expanding the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) program, which provides prevention and rapid re-housing services for veteran families.

That’s great news. Since the end of Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program (HPRP), many communities have struggled to fund the same level of rapid re-housing services that they provided when they were receiving funding through under HPRP. The expansion of SSVF means that communities will now be able to increase rapid re-housing resources by drawing on SSVF funds.

As communities strive to end homelessness, SSVF funds will serve as a vital resource for Continuums of Care (CoC) as they expand their rapid re-housing efforts in order to progress toward the goals of ending, not just Veteran homelessness, but all homelessness. To take advantage of this opportunity, communities will need to implement a proactive planning and engagement approach to provide to ensure that all rapid rehousing programs are adopting a system wide best practice approach regardless of funding sources.

CoCs will need to engage all the programs and providers to work towards a community-wide rapid re-housing strategy. It will be especially important that veteran service and homeless service providers across the Continuum work as a team to apply rapid re-housing resources efficiently and effectively.

Currently, a number of CoCs are already hosting Rapid Re-Housing Clinics in their communities, bringing together all rapid re-housing providers, regardless of funding sources, to work collaboratively on setting goals and establishing best practices for rapid re-housing.

Last November, the West Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness engaged the six new SSVF grantees in their community in a coordinated approach with a state-wide Rapid Re-Housing Clinic. The clinic brought these providers and all other rapid re-housing providers in the state together for a one-day training to institute state-wide best practices for rapid re-housing.

Other CoCs have developed local planning committees that include all rapid re-housing providers. These committees identify local policies and procedures for rapid re-housing, share resources and tools, and utilize training materials made available through both the VA website and the NAEH website.

This collaborative approach across a continuum creates a system-wide practice for rapid rehousing. More importantly, it ensures that, regardless of where households experiencing homelessness access services, the rapid re-housing approach is consistent and effective throughout the community.