FEBRUARY 2, 2015, WASHINGTON – Today the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced that the HUD and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) program that helps homeless veterans find permanent supportive housing will, for the first time, expand directly into Native American communities. This support for veterans is provided through the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program which combines rental assistance from HUD with case management and clinical services provided by VA.
The HUD-VASH program will now be opened to tribes so they may directly serve Native American veterans living on or near tribal lands. To expand the HUD-VASH program, $4 million will be invested specifically to support Native American veterans experiencing homelessness by providing them with secure housing and connecting them with clinical services and case management. This groundbreaking new effort will expand opportunity for approximately 650 veterans who are currently homeless or at risk of homelessness.
“Ensuring that our men and women who served in uniform receive the care and support they’ve earned is a national responsibility,” said HUD Secretary Julián Castro. “But for too long, fulfilling that responsibility to many Native American veterans has been borne by Indian Country alone. We’re changing that this year.”
Expanding the HUD-VASH program will inform and improve how HUD serves Native American veterans, as well as further the goals of ending homelessness in tribal communities more broadly. While there is a need for the program in Indian Country, HUD is calling on both national and regional Native American leaders, associations and communities to offer insight into the design of the expansion, including ways that tribes estimate homelessness, what criteria HUD should establish in allocating funding, what medical providers are offering care to veterans, and how HUD can target program assistance in ways that encourage the creation of new housing.
To expedite the program expansion, HUD has requested tribal responses through its Office of Native American Programs within 30 days rather than the traditional 60 day comment period. Comments can be submitted by February 25 to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In addition, six of HUD’s Regional Field Offices will host public listening sessions with Native American communities in their areas. Those who can attend sessions are encouraged to do so.
As HUD celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, Secretary Castro is focused on advancing policies that create opportunities for all Americans, including the broader Administration goal of ending homelessness among veterans. HUD-VASH is an important part of that effort to provide critical housing and services to veterans experiencing homelessness that also includes HUD’s Continuum of Care program, VA’s Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF), and the Mayors Challenge to End Veteran Homelessness.
Since the release of Opening Doors, the nation’s first ever Federal strategic plan to prevent and end homelessness, all forms of homelessness have declined significantly, particularly among veterans. In November 2014, HUD, VA and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) released a national estimate of veteran homelessness in the United States which showed a decline of 33 percent (or 24,837 people) since 2010. This includes a nearly 40 percent drop in the number of unsheltered veterans sleeping on the street.
Since 2008, HUD and VA have awarded more than 59,000 HUD-VASH vouchers and served more than 74,000 veterans experiencing homelessness. Rental assistance and support services provided through HUD-VASH are a critical resource for local communities in ending homelessness among veterans.
In the traditional HUD-VASH program, VA Medical Centers (VAMCs) assess veterans experiencing homelessness before referring them to local housing agencies for these vouchers. Decisions are traditionally 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. The HUD-VASH program includes both the rental assistance the voucher provides and the comprehensive case management that VAMC staff offers.
Veterans participating in the traditional HUD-VASH program rent privately owned housing and generally contribute no more than 30 percent of their income toward rent. VA offers eligible veterans experiencing homelessness with clinical and supportive services through its medical centers across the U.S., Guam and Puerto Rico.