Thursday, November 5, 2015

Eight actions to help end homelessness among veterans

by Michael Taylor, Director, VA Homeless Veterans Outreach & Strategic Communications 

Nearly every member of the National Housing Conference (NHC) would agree that no one who served this country should be without a place to call home—period. Yet we can always use a reminder about the progress being made to end Veteran homelessness and about the ways we can join with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to support this cause.

As you likely know, the nation’s leaders set an ambitious goal a few years back to end Veteran homelessness by making sure every Veteran has access to permanent housing. Led by VA, tremendous progress is being made. Community by community, localities across the country are announcing an end to homelessness among Veterans.

These successes show that it’s possible to not only end homelessness among Veterans but to end it among all Americans.

NHC members are integral to the national effort to make sure every Veteran is stably housed or on the pathway to permanent housing. NHC members are advocating for more affordable housing, broadening access to low-cost loans and financing and raising awareness about ways that state and local governments can boost the stock of low-cost housing for Veterans.

Yet there is always more to do and new ways to reach and serve Veterans who are homeless. VA recently shared eight ways that organizations not already involved in this fight can lend support, resources and voices to this cause:

  1. Connect Veterans to VA. VA can help Veterans who are homeless. If you encounter Veterans who are homeless or at imminent risk of becoming homeless, encourage them to call or visit their local VA Medical Center, where VA staff are ready to assist. Veterans and their families can also access VA services by calling 1-877-4AID-VET (1-877-424-3838).
  2. Make a commitment. If you’re not already doing so, set aside housing units each year for Veterans who are homeless. Agree to house Veterans both eligible and ineligible for Department of Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) vouchers and supportive services.
  3. Help with Veterans’ security deposits and move-in costs. Even though many Veteran clients have a HUD-VASH voucher, NHC members know it can be hard for them to come up with the money to move in and buy furniture. There are ways to help. Join with community partners like Veterans Matter that raise funds to help Veterans secure first and last months’ rent, security deposits and move-in essentials so they can exit homelessness quickly and make their house a home.
  4. Work with the VA Voluntary Service office at your local VA Medical Center. Find or enlist other organizations in your area to provide security deposits, furniture, cookware and other move-in essentials for Veterans exiting homelessness. Check with VA Voluntary Service (VAVS) to see if there are ways to help.
  5. Participate in a Stand Down. Stand Downs connect Veterans in need with supplies and services that often lead to permanent housing. Chances are one is happening in your community. Consider contacting your area organizer to find out how to volunteer.
  6. Work with VA to recruit and hire Veterans exiting homelessness. Veterans have diverse experience, knowledge and abilities that are applicable to many different fields and levels of employment. Contact your local community employment coordinator at to find out if job-ready Veterans exiting homelessness in your area have skills that fit your job openings. 
  7. Start a conversation. Keep the issue of ending Veteran homelessness front and center. Every post, tweet or conversation about the issue builds to promote change. Discuss your organization’s work in ending Veteran homelessness on social media and encourage your members to share their many stories of success in housing Veterans who are homeless. Follow VA on social media.
  8. Get involved in other ways. Explore VA’s Ending Veteran Homelessness website to learn about VA programs for Veterans who are homeless. You can also visit VA’s “Get Involved” page to download outreach toolkits and information and share them with others. And be sure to check out the NHC Center for Housing Policy’s June 2015 report on tailoring housing services for a diverse Veteran population.

No Veteran who wore the uniform should be without a safe, stable home. By taking action in ways large and small, NHC members are helping end homelessness among Veterans, once and for all. If you have specific questions about how to get involved in these or other efforts to end homelessness among Veterans, email VA’s homeless Veterans’ outreach team.

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