Ending homelessness among veterans, including chronic homelessness has happened in Washington DC, Phoenix and Salt Lake City. Can local communities in New Jersey repeat this success?
In February 2014, Think Progress reported that Veterans NOW, an organization in Washington DC release the results of its 100 day challenge which took place from August 1 to November 30, 2013. The group had set the goal of housing 225 homeless veterans including 100 chronically homeless veterans and almost made it by housing 207 homeless veterans including 96 chronically homeless veterans.
Veterans NOW attributes its ending homelessness success to:
Coordinated local service providers working together and avoiding overlap,
Triaging the neediest homeless veterans first,
Providing pre-inspected apartments through the local housing authority,
Matching local data with national data to determine what help is needed, and
Perhaps most importantly, an “unprecedented” high level of funding for permanent supportive housing and rapid re-housing resources for ending veterans homelessness.
The key to the success of this coalition in ending homelessness, according to those involved:
Is cooperation, strategy and integration. All veterans are asked to fill out a universal service prioritization decision assistance tool, which asks about their history of homelessness, risks (“Have you been attacked or beaten up since becoming homeless?”), socialization (“Do any friends, family or other people in your life ever … get you to do things you really don’t want to do?”) and wellness. The person is then scored to see if permanent supportive housing or rapid re-housing is recommended. Fifty staff members at 20 agencies were trained to use this tool.
This information is centralized in a Homeless Management Information Systems database, and providers then coordinate services.
Another crucial aspect is cutting down the time between when veterans are assessed and when they’re housed. “The D.C. Housing Authority is providing the VA with pre-inspected units, which cut in half the time it takes to do outreach, application, and lease up for VASH voucher holders,” according to Veterans NOW.