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The number of homeless veterans in America has declined over the past decade, but an important fact remains: even one homeless veteran is too many.
Veterans and veteran families should have access to safe and affordable housing, just as they have access to financial assistance, mental health care, and supportive services through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
7 Types of VA Programs for Homeless Veterans
- Housing Assistance
- Health Care Services
- Foreclosure Assistance
- Employment Services
- Mental Health Programs
- Justice Outreach
- Reentry Assistance
These programs assist veterans in the prevention and remedy of homelessness. From finding emergency shelter and affordable, permanent housing to providing healthcare and justice transition services, the VA assists veterans in getting back on their feet to curb the crisis of homeless vets.
VA programs often coincide with other federal, state, and community programs to aid America’s homeless veterans. The VA also works with landlords to provide incentives for them to rent properties to homeless veterans. Through these VA benefits and housing programs, vets can gain permanent shelter, employment, and other necessary resources they deserve.
What Is the Homeless Veterans Programs Office (HPO)?
The Homeless Programs Office (HPO) is a division in the VA that focuses on combating veteran homelessness by finding permanent and stable housing for all veterans. In January 2019, the VA estimated that over 37,000 veterans were homeless. Although the number has drastically decreased since 2010, the veteran homeless population remains a problem that the HPO continues to solve.
The HPO works toward its mission of ending veteran homelessness by seeking veterans who need assistance, connecting eligible veterans with housing solutions, and working with community resources to better the lives of veterans. The HPO sources employers, churches, nonprofit organizations, and other community agencies to get veterans in a home, on their feet, and back to work.
7 VA Programs for Homeless Veterans
Homeless veterans may be eligible for a wide range of programs from the VA in addition to other veterans benefits, like VA loans and VA disability benefits. Here’s an overview of different forms of assistance homeless veterans can use to meet their needs for health care, find permanent housing, and receive vocational rehabilitation.
1. Housing Assistance
First and foremost, the VA attempts to assist homeless veterans by providing clean, affordable, and sustainable housing through various housing program options.
One program is known as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH). This is a joint effort from HUD and VA to ensure that veterans have housing, and the program has become beneficial for veterans who have repeatedly become homeless. The HUD-VASH program uses a housing voucher system as rental assistance for eligible veterans, similar to Section 8 housing.
The Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program pays state, local, and tribal governments with Diem payments to create and maintain transitional housing units for veterans. These units are designed to be short-term living arrangements to help homeless veterans get back on their feet and find permanent housing.
The Enhanced-Use Lease (EUL) Program turns eligible buildings and land into short-term supportive housing for homeless veterans. The EUL also partners with local agencies and businesses to provide needed services to veterans, like health care and personal care services.
Finally, the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) works to prevent home loss for veterans who may be struggling to pay for their rent or mortgage. SSVF can assist with rehoming or finding more affordable housing for veterans and their families.
2. Health Care Services
The VA is committed to providing veterans with consistent, reliable, and affordable access to health care services, whether for routine, emergency, or long-term care. Eligible homeless veterans may benefit from the VA’s regular health care programs, but a few additional programs exclusively target those who are homeless.
Health Care for Homeless Veterans (HCHV) works through several VA medical center locations to provide each veteran homeless person with health care treatment and other services to help them get on their feet and into housing. Most notably, the program’s case management services can connect homeless veterans with other community resources that support their specific situations.
The Homeless Patient Aligned Care Teams (HPACTs) Program provides medical clinics that are designed to coordinate community resources and health care programs to fit the needs of homeless veterans. Medical professionals and community resource personnel work together at HPACT clinics to provide these services.
Homeless veterans may also receive necessary dental care through the Homeless Veterans Dental Program. The program coordinates with other health care programs for homeless veterans to provide dental services that assist with the veteran’s health and ability to find suitable employment and housing.
3. Foreclosure Assistance
Veterans can fall into hard times that affect their income, making it impossible to keep up with mortgage payments. When someone falls behind on their mortgage payments, they face the risk of foreclosure and losing their home.
As part of its housing assistance for veterans, the VA assists veterans with foreclosures to avoid homelessness. VA loan technicians work with veterans to find the best option for them to avoid a foreclosure on their homes. Some options include negotiating a more affordable payment plan, getting a special forbearance period, and delaying foreclosure to have a private sale instead.
Some situations cannot avoid foreclosure. In many cases, the veteran may still be required to pay back any owed money due to the foreclosure.
4. Employment Services
Homeless veterans can receive help from employment services designed to get them back into the workforce to afford suitable housing. One program known as Homeless Veterans Community Employment Services (HVCES) assists homeless veterans through job placement and vocational assistance services.
The Compensated Work Therapy (CWT) Program includes sub-programs within VA medical centers. CWT offers clinical services to help veterans secure jobs, including a Transitional Work program that pays veterans a monthly stipend for temporary work while they learn skills to obtain a permanent position.
The VA’s Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program connects veterans with experienced staff who can help them start their business, train for employment, or return to the job they held before entering the service.
5. Mental Health Programs
The VA provides various programs that support the mental health of homeless veterans. A homeless veteran can start by getting help from the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans by calling 1-877-424-3838 (1-877-4AID-VET), which can coordinate services based on the veteran’s needs. The Veterans Crisis Line is also available by phone at 1-800-273-8255 or online at VeteransCrisisLine.net if an emergency arises or a veteran simply needs someone to talk to.
Mental Health Residential Rehabilitation and Treatment Programs (MH RRTPs) began as the Domiciliary Care for Homeless Veterans (DCHV) Program. This program was founded in the 1860s to provide housing for disabled soldiers. Today, the program provides residential and treatment services for veterans with mental health challenges, including homeless veterans.
Other programs tackle mental health issues that often impact homeless veterans, like substance abuse, PTSD, and depression. For instance, veterans struggling with substance abuse can reach out to the Substance Use Disorder Treatment Enhancement Initiative for help with recovery. And the HCHV program can work with homeless veterans to cover counseling, examinations, and treatment for mental health disorders, like anxiety.
6. Justice Outreach
Veterans Justice Outreach (VJO) programs assist veterans who are involved in the justice system. These programs aim to prevent homelessness for veterans who are transitioning from correctional facilities and substance abuse programs to civilian life. However, it’s important to note that VJO programs do not provide legal services, but they can connect veterans with community legal resources.
A notable way that VJO programs assist veterans is by helping them navigate the legal system. VJO representatives manage veteran cases and coordinate resources specific to their needs. Programs may touch upon preventing suicide for incarcerated veterans, supporting their mental health, and finding them housing and employment opportunities after they’ve completed their sentence.
7. Reentry Assistance
While VJO programs help veterans within the legal system to prepare them for a sustainable life outside of jail or prison, reentry assistance programs aid veterans in transitioning to life outside of the legal system. More specifically, these programs focus on health care for veterans to ensure that they get the proper medical care necessary to stay healthy, work, and live after incarceration.
One of the ways the Health Care for Reentry Veterans (HCRV) program assists veterans is through short-term case management. The HCRV program provides this service to coordinate medical and other supportive services for veterans after they get released. Through this program, veterans have a helping hand to connect them with community resources to get back into civilian life.
The program also provides some outreach and assessments prior to a veteran leaving jail or prison. During this assessment, a coordinator learns more about the veteran’s medical needs upon release and gets the necessary referrals and appointments in place for the veteran.
How To Apply for Homeless Assistance
Homeless veterans can contact their VA regional office to learn more about each program, its eligibility, and how to apply for assistance. Each office has a Homeless Veterans Outreach Coordinator that will assist the veteran with finding the right program for their situation. The coordinator can also help a veteran apply for benefits and find other resources that can benefit them.
Each program has a separate application and application process. Some applications may take longer to process than others. Your coordinator can let you know more about the process and what to expect once you apply.
How Can I Help Homeless Veterans?
There are many ways the public can help homeless veterans and their families get access to affordable and safe housing and suitable employment. The most important step to take is to spread awareness. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of how many of our nation’s veterans are affected by homelessness every day. Awareness is a crucial part of advocating for homeless veterans and encouraging others to help.
You can also host events using the tools and resources the VA provides. Event in a Box provides event ideas, checklists, and other helpful tools to make your awareness event successful. The VA also makes brochures, newsletters, infographics, posters, fact sheets, and other resources available on its website. These resources are packed with information about veteran homelessness and ways to help.
People may also volunteer to help their local VA regional office. Currently, over 61,000 volunteers serve the VA and veterans each year. Students interested in the medical field may also volunteer at a VA medical center to assist veterans in the VA homeless program and other veterans with getting proper health care.
Helping America’s Homeless Veterans
America’s homeless veterans deserve to be taken care of and supported in every way possible. The VA implements several programs that tackle everything from foreclosure assistance to medical care for homeless veterans. Each program works toward transitioning veterans back into the community by finding suitable employment, getting proper health care, and securing housing.
The VA, its staff, and its volunteers work together with community resources to connect homeless veterans with the services they need to better their situation. VA staff and volunteers can answer any questions you have about programs, resources, and assistance to get you on your feet. The VA’s Homeless Veterans Chat can be an excellent place to start the conversation and talk to a representative securely.
If you are a homeless veteran, there are plenty of programs to help you get the medical care, employment, and housing assistance you need to thrive. To learn more about each program, its eligibility requirements, and how to apply, call 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838) or visit your local Community Resource and Referral Center.