Support for Homeless Veterans

Homelessness among Veterans is one of the most pressing and concerning issues today. According to the 2023 Point-In-Time (PIT) Count, there were over 35,000 homeless Veterans in the United States as of January 2023. Although the numbers have declined by more than 50% in the past decade, homelessness is still a real concern and remains unresolved. 

Many factors contribute to homelessness. The transition from military to civilian life can be extremely challenging, especially if you live with service-connected disabilities. Even those Veterans who successfully claim their VA Disability Benefits may still struggle with finding stable employment and housing.

According to recent research by VA New England MIRECC and the Yale School of Medicine, over 300,000 US Veterans who have been diagnosed with service-connected PTSD and other mental health disabilities have experienced homelessness.

Substance abuse disorders, another sadly known issue among Veterans, make those who suffer from them almost twice as likely to become homeless.

In this Blog, we’ll cover ongoing efforts at the federal and local levels to address homelessness among Veterans, as well as programs and charities that help homeless and at-risk Veterans to get housing, health care, community employment services, and other support. 

Veterans at Risk of Homelessness

While homelessness remains a grave challenge for so many Veterans, certain groups of former military personnel are known to be most vulnerable to becoming homeless:

  • Recent Veterans
    Veterans who have just began their transition from military to civilian life often face the biggest challenges in finding stable employment and housing. This transition period can be particularly difficult, especially if they have service-connected disabilities and are not entirely aware of the VA benefits they are entitled to and ways to claim them.
  • Combat Veterans
    Veterans who have experienced combat, especially those who have been deployed multiple times, may struggle with mental health issues such as PTSD, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or depression. These conditions make it very hard to find stable employment and housing.
  • Female Veterans
    Statistically, about 90% of homeless Veterans are male. However, the number of female Veterans who are homeless or at-risk is increasing rapidly. Female veterans often face unique challenges, including a lack of access to gender-specific services and resources, as well as higher rates of sexual trauma while in service and its effect on their mental health.
  • Veterans with Substance Abuse Disorders
    Alcoholism and drug addiction, are common among homeless Veterans. They become coping mechanisms after experiences during military service or develop as a result of difficulties adjusting to civilian life. The biggest problem is that traditional housing options for homeless Veterans often require participants to be sober, which turns their struggles into a vicious cycle.
  • Elderly Veterans
    Older Veterans may face challenges related to aging, such as health problems, limited income, and social isolation, which can increase their risk of homelessness.

If you or someone you know belongs to one of those groups and may show signs of being at risk of homelessness, it is always better to take action and address help before it turns into an acute issue.

Housing Assistance for Homeless Veterans

The VA offers several programs to help homeless Veterans secure stable housing:

HUD-VASH Program

This is joint effort of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and VA Supportive Housing, which not only gives homeless Veterans a roof over their heads but also provides assistance from social workers who help them seek professional help if they struggle with substance abuse and other challenges

Since 2011 the program has been available for Veterans who show symptoms of mental health illness or have not yet reached total sobriety. Statistically, Veterans who participate in the HUD-VASH program are twice as likely to be successfully treated for their mental health conditions and substance abuse as other homeless Veterans.

All Veterans who live on the streets, in emergency shelters, or facing imminent eviction or loss of housing and are enrolled in the VA Health Care are eligible for HUD-VASH.

The program provides rental assistance vouchers. Veterans sign a lease agreement with a private landlord and HUD-VASH vouchers are used to subsidize a portion of the rent. HUD-VASH assistance is typically provided on a long-term basis, with no predetermined time limit. 

To apply for the HUD-VASH program, you need to contact the VA Medical Center or Veterans Health Administration (VHA) facility. You can find contact information for your nearest VA facility or call the National Call Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-424-3838.

Homeless Providers Grant and Per Diem (GPD) Program

The GPD Program offers grants and per diem payments to organizations that provide transitional housing and supportive services to homeless Veterans. GPD Program funds non-profit organizations, faith-based organizations, and state and local government entities, which use these grant funds to purchase, renovate, or build facilities to provide housing and supportive services to homeless veterans. These funds are also used to pay for staff salaries, utilities, maintenance costs, etc.

Unlike the HUD-VASH housing, GPD is considered a short-term transitional program for homeless Veterans, usually provided for up to 24 months (2 years). 

During this time you will also receive supportive services such as case management, employment assistance, life skills training, substance abuse counselling, mental health services, and access to health care to help address the underlying issues that makes you susceptible to homelessness.

The Enhanced-Use Lease (EUL) Program

The original purpose of the EUL Program is to encourage private developers to build and manage properties for the VA and Veterans’ needs. Those can be medical facilities, supportive services as well as housing projects for homeless or at-risk Veterans.

Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) 

Unlike all the VA programs mentioned above, SSVF does not provide the actual accommodations but helps Veterans and their families who are at risk of becoming homeless because they cannot pay for their current rent or mortgage.

SSFV provides financial support for rental assistance, security deposits, utility payments, and other housing-related expenses that can help Veterans and their families stabilize their housing situation and prevent them from losing their homes.

Any Veteran who has served in the United States Armed Forces, including the National Guard and Reserves, and who is at risk of homelessness may be eligible for SSVF assistance. SSVF program also assists Veterans’ family members, including:

  • Spouses or domestic partners of eligible Veterans
  • Dependent children of eligible Veterans

To enroll in the SSVF Program you need to reach out to a local SSVF provider in your area

Remember that to meet the requirements of this housing assistance program you will need to provide information about your current housing and financial situation, which is crucial for qualifying for the program. 

How to Get Help Now

Homelessness or the risk of homelessness is probably one of the most devastating situations that can make you feel helpless and vulnerable, especially if you struggle with substance abuse, mental health disorders, or any other disabilities. Your loved ones can also be both indirectly and directly affected. No Veteran should be without a place to call home.

If you are in imminent threat of becoming homeless, or have a loved one who is, you can call the National Center for Homeless Veterans at 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).  This is a free and confidential hotline available 7 days a week, 24 hours a day to help get you in touch with Veteran homeless and health care programs in your local area.

How can VCU Can Help? For almost 10 years, the VCU team has been helping Veterans and their families seek and claim their rightfully deserved benefits, gain and increase their VA rates, and take control over their situation. No matter how complex your case can be, our vast network of independent medical professionals and advisers will help you make informed decisions regarding your case.

Book your free 30-minute call with a Veterans Specialist today.

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