HUD partners with Commonwealth agencies to end veteran homelessness

In a push to truly eliminate chronic veteran homelessness, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will provide a major funding boost to Massachusetts’ division of the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program.

The HUD and VA announced the funding increase and partnership at the start of June. According to a recent press release, they are awarding a total of $630,000 to find permanent homes for 73 homeless veterans in Massachusetts.

This increase of $27,275, according to HUD data, will create a total of 73 vouchers in HUD-VASH, providing funding for both housing costs and additional supportive services for veterans. This combination of rental assistance from HUD and VA’s clinical and case management services is what has made the program successful for tens of thousands of U.S. veterans so far.

The city of Boston currently claims that it has ended chronic veteran homelessness. However, what the city has actually achieved is functional zero, meaning there are less homeless veterans than the average monthly housing placement rate for veterans in the city. It does not mean that no veterans are experiencing homelessness.

As of the most recent homeless assessment, there are still over 1,000 homeless veterans in Massachusetts. This increase in funding will provide aid for 30 more veterans and their families to find permanent housing than in 2015.

The 73 vouchers will be distributed to housing authorities and departments of housing and community development, each partnered with a VA medical facility, throughout the state.

Veterans who qualify for vouchers, according to the Boston Housing Authority and VA, are those who are homeless as defined by the McKinney Act, who need intensive case management, who are not registered under a state sex offender registration program, and who qualify for VA services. BHA gives the highest priority to chronically homeless disabled veterans and families.

A VA Medical Center must assess veterans before referring them to a housing agency. Decisions, according to the HUD press release, “are based on a variety of factors, most importantly the duration of homelessness and the need for longer term, more intensive support in obtaining and maintaining permanent housing.”

Once awarded a voucher, veterans receive rental assistance to find and rent previously owned housing. At this time, the veteran and the veteran’s family enter into VAMC’s case management services and continue to participate for the duration of their involvement with the program. This is to ensure that they adapt to their new way of life and that their housing arrangement is permanent. HUD-VASH focuses on partnership between local housing authorities and VAMCs, which means the program is a lasting solution for veterans, preventing them from falling back into homelessness.

“Supporting the brave men and women who served our nation is not only our honor but also our responsibility,” HUD Secretary Julián Castro said in a press release. “Joining the more than 111,000 formerly homeless veterans who have already found homes through this successful program, thousands more brave veterans will be able to start a new chapter in their lives. It’s a privilege to partner with communities dedicated to ensuring that no veteran has to call the streets their home.”

Olivia Valicenti, a rising junior at Occidental College, is an intern writing for Spare Change News.

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