We Are Ending Veteran Homelessness.

written by Ian Lisman
August 8, 2013

Believe it or not, we are on track to end veteran homelessness in the United States. Here’s how it’s playing out. We currently have the resources in place at a scale to serve all the homeless veterans that are out there, and prevent new ones from becoming homeless. We must use these resources as effectively and as efficiently as possible. Old systems like the Grant Per Diem program will need to be re-vamped as new programs come on line. And we will need to target new programs properly to ensure their effectiveness.

As I talked about in my presentation 2013 National Conference last month, the goal now is to make sure that the veterans who need these resources reveice level of services. (The presentation is embedded below.) With new initiatives by the Department of Veterans Affairs (V)A, we can expect improved coordination between Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs and VA programs, communities, and VA Medical Centers. Improved coordination will help us better identify homeless and at-risk veterans and ensure that they find the right program to fit their needs.

The old model of “treating” homeless veterans rather than putting them in permanent housing is giving way to the new, evidence base model of Housing First. Many “old-school” providers are finding that their treatment beds are empty as veterans choose more progressive programs that provide permanent housing at the onset of homelessness, rather than after a protracted period of treatment. Many in the field are struggling to adapt to this model, but times are changing.

During the Point in Time (PIT) count in January 2012, volunteers counted 62,619 homeless veterans. That number represents a more than 17 percent decline from the January 2010 count, when the number of homeless veterans counted was 76,329. Today, with the funding of Supportive Services for Veteran Families program at a scale ($300 million), and HUD-VASH is funded at close to 60K vouchers, with another 10K in it the pipeline, we can expect to see significantly fewer homeless veterans in the coming years.

Only time will tell if more funding will be needed as we draw down troops from the current conflict. VA predicts that as many as 2.5 million service men and women could become new veterans over the next five years. VA is bracing for this impact and asking community partners to engage with these new veterans, to prevent another generation of veterans from facing the social and economic impacts faced by previous generations.

Yes we will end veteran homelessness, but we will need to fight for reform of old, underperforming programs – or do away with them entirely. Most providers have seen the writing on the wall and are scrambling to work with VA to find new funding mechanisms and program guidelines that will allow them to house homeless veterans and transform into a prevention model in the coming post-homeless veteran era.