Veterans Affairs is continuing its pledge to end veteran homelessness by 2015 with the release of $60 million to provide funds for local public housing agencies across the country to help veterans get into permanent supportive housing.
The Central Texas Council of Governments received 70 vouchers valued at $307,802 to provide housing through a partnership with the Central Texas Veterans Health Care System, according to information released by the two offices last week.
The U.S. Housing and Urban Development-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program began in 2008. Since then, a total of 48,385 vouchers have been awarded, and 42,557 formerly homeless veterans are in homes.
Locally, 135 veterans are housed through the program and another 35 received vouchers and are awaiting a home, said Andrew Miller, the Austin-based HUD-VASH program manager for Central Texas. Of those who get help, he said 95 percent remain in stable housing. He credits the success to the case management the VA provides alongside the voucher, which includes budgeting, mental and physical health follow ups and locating household goods.
“That’s why we are excited about these vouchers,” Miller said. “They give us capacity to serve more veterans.”
He estimated there are between 88 and 104 homeless veterans in Central Texas. The program is targeting those who suffer from chronic homelessness, which means a person has been homeless for more than a year or more than four times in the past three years.
“These are the vets who without our intervention are likely to be homeless in the next year,” Miller said.
Homeless veterans are located through the VA’s health care for the homeless program and through coordination and referrals from local shelters.
Ben Tindall, executive director of the Cove House emergency homeless shelter, said it works with the VA to get veterans into its programs. About a quarter of the people who visited the Cove House last year were veterans, he said.
“I know as a shelter director in the area that it’s been something that we kind of rely on and have come to really lean on. ... It’s something we appreciate and want to see continue,” Tindall said. “It’s important for us, because we know these people are going to make it.”
One obstacle Miller identified in housing homeless veterans is finding landlords willing to work with Section 8 housing. On Tuesday, the VA will hold two housing fairs to educate landlords about the program.
“These HUD-VASH vouchers are a critical resource to accomplish our shared goal of ending veterans’ homelessness in 2015,” said Eric Shinseki, the VA secretary, in a release. “With the continued support of President (Barack) Obama, Congress and our community partners, we will end homelessness among veterans and provide these brave men and women with the earned care and benefits that help them live productive, meaningful lives.”
The federal government estimated veteran homelessness has fallen by 7.2 percent since January 2011 and by 17.2 percent since January 2009. On a single night in January 2012, 62,619 veterans were homeless.
The grants announced last week are part of $75 million appropriated this year to support the housing needs of homeless veterans, according to a release from the VA. This is the first round of the 2013 HUD-VASH funding. HUD expects to announce more funding for the program this summer.