Can We Finish the Job of Ending Homelessness Among Veterans in California?

-Nearly Three-fourths of California Continuums of Care
Recently Reported Not Having Sufficient Resources to Move
Homeless Veterans into Permanent Housing Using a Housing First Approach-
(see Table 2 below)

Joe Colletti, PhD and Sofia Herrera, PhD
Hub for Urban Initiatives
Homeless and Housing Strategies for California

November 2018

As we await the release of the 2018 homeless count data, the number of veterans counted as homeless in the United States in 2017 was 40,056 of which 11,472 or 28.6% were counted in California.

Table 1 lists the 12 states in the U.S. with a homeless population of more than 10,000 persons in 2017, the total number of veterans counted, and notes the percent of the total homeless population that veterans represent.

California not only has the largest number of persons who are homeless but also has the largest number of veterans who are homeless. Homeless veterans make up 8.5% of the total homeless population, which is not the largest percent when compared to the percentages of other states as noted in the table.

Ending homelessness among veterans in California, however, is very important because almost half, 11,472 or 43.4% of the 26,409 veterans counted in the 12 states in 2017 were in California.

Table 1. Total number of homeless persons and veterans counted in 2017 by states with a homeless population of 10,000 persons or more.

State Total # of Persons Counted in 2017 Veterans
Total # of Counted in 2017 % of Persons Counted in 2017
California 134,278 11,472 8.5
New York 89,503 1,244 1.4
Florida 32,190 2,817 8.7
Texas 23,548 2,200 9.3
Washington 21,112 2,093 9.9
Massachusetts 17,565 853 4.8
Pennsylvania 14,138 963 6.8
Oregon 13,953 1,251 9.0
Ohio 10,095 862 8.5
Colorado 10,940 1,078 9.8
Illinois 10,798 864 8.0
Georgia 10,174 712 7.0
Total: 388,294 26,409 7.6*

*average.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) asked Continuums of Care (CoCs) the following three questions within a subsection of the 2017 and 2018 Continuum of Care (CoC) Program applications that focused on progress towards ending homelessness among veterans:

  • Does the CoC use an active list or by name list to identify all Veterans experiencing homelessness in the CoC?
  • Is the CoC actively working with the VA and VA-funded programs to achieve the benchmarks and criteria for ending Veteran homelessness?
  • Does the CoC have sufficient resources to ensure each Veteran is assisted to quickly move into permanent housing using a Housing First approach?

As noted in table 2 below,

  • nearly all of the 40[1] California CoCs answered “yes” to the first question about using “an active list or by name list to identify all Veterans in 2017 and in 2018;
  • All (100%) of the 40 California CoCs answered “yes” to the second question about “actively working with the VA (U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs) and VA-funded programs in 2017 and all but one in 2018;”
  • Nearly three-fourths (72.5%) of the 40 California CoCs answered “no” to the third question about “having sufficient resources” to quickly move each veteran “into permanent housing using a Housing First approach” in 2018, which is an increase when compared to 2017 when nearly two-thirds answered “no.”[2]

Table 2. Answers to Questions regarding veterans in 2017 and 2018 CoC Program applications by California Continuums of Care in 2017.**

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Continuums of Care

 

 

 

 

 

Total
# of Veterans
In 2018

 

 

Does the CoC use an active list or by
name list to identify all Veterans experiencing
homelessness
in the CoC?

 

Is the CoC actively working with the VA and VA-funded programs to achieve the
Benchmarks
and criteria for ending Veteran
homelessness?

Does the CoC have sufficient resources to ensure each Veteran experiencing homelessness is assisted to quickly move into permanent housing using a Housing First approach?
2017 2018 2017 2018 2017 2018
San Jose/Santa Clara City & County CoC 658 yes yes yes yes no no
San Francisco CoC 656 yes yes yes yes yes no
Oakland, Berkeley/Alameda County CoC 526 yes yes yes yes no no
Sacramento City & County CoC 492 yes yes yes yes no no
Santa Rosa, Petaluma/Sonoma County CoC 207 yes yes yes yes no no
Richmond/Contra Costa County CoC 102 yes yes yes yes yes yes
Salinas/Monterey, San Benito Counties CoC 167 yes yes yes yes yes yes
Marin County CoC 89 yes yes yes yes no no
Watsonville/Santa Cruz City & County CoC 245 yes yes yes yes no no
Mendocino County CoC 12 yes no yes yes yes no
Turlock, Modesto/Stanislaus County CoC 87 no no yes yes no no
Stockton/San Joaquin County CoC 96 yes yes yes yes no no
Daly City/San Mateo County CoC 100 yes yes yes yes no no
Visalia/Kings, Tulare Counties CoC 46 yes yes yes yes yes no
Fresno City & County/Madera County CoC 211 yes yes yes no yes yes
Roseville, Rocklin/Placer, Nevada Counties 55 no yes yes yes yes no
Redding/Shasta County CoC 124 yes yes yes yes yes yes
Napa City & County CoC 23 yes yes yes yes no no
Vallejo/Solano County CoC 124 yes yes yes yes no no
Chico, Paradise/Butte County CoC 109 no yes yes yes no no
Merced City & County CoC 13 yes yes yes yes no no
Davis, Woodland/Yolo County CoC 22 no no yes yes no no
Humboldt County CoC 106 yes yes yes yes yes no
Colusa, Glen, Trinity Counties CoC*** 18
Yuba City/Sutter County CoC 28 no yes yes yes yes no
El Dorado County CoC 82 yes yes yes yes no no
Tuolumne, Amador, Calaveras, Mariposa Counties CoC 19 yes yes yes yes yes yes
Tehama County CoC 9 yes yes yes yes yes yes
Lake County CoC*** 12
Alpine, Inyo, Mono Counties CoC*** 6 yes yes no
Los Angeles City & County CoC 3,538 yes yes yes yes no no
San Diego City and County CoC 1,312 yes yes yes yes no no
Santa Ana, Anaheim/Orange County CoC 419 yes yes yes yes no yes
Santa Maria/Santa Barbara County CoC 104 yes yes yes yes no yes
Bakersfield/Kern County CoC 80 yes yes yes yes yes yes
Long Beach CoC 305 yes yes yes yes yes yes
Pasadena CoC 31 yes yes yes yes no no
Riverside City & County CoC 136 yes yes yes yes no no
San Bernardino City & County CoC 170 yes yes yes yes no no
Oxnard, San Buenaventura/Ventura County CoC 62 yes yes yes yes no no
Glendale CoC 12 yes yes yes yes yes yes
Imperial County CoC 130 no yes yes yes no no
San Luis Obispo County CoC 93 yes yes yes yes no no
Total “yes:” 34 37 40 39 15 11
Total “no:” 6 3 0 1 25 29
Total: 40 40 40 40 40 40

**For total number of homeless persons for each CoC go to www.hudexchange.info/programs/coc/coc-homeless-populations-and-subpopulations-reports/.

***CoC did not submit a 2017 and 2018 CoC Program application. Alpine, Inyo, Mono Counties CoC did submit a 2018 application but was not included in the total of “yes” and “no” answers in Table 2.

The importance of these questions stem from an impressive goal to end homelessness among veterans announced by the federal government in late 2009. The plan to carry out the goal was outlined in 2010 in Opening Doors: Federal Strategic Plan to Prevent andEnd Homelessness, which was developed by the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH).[3]

The plan set forth a number of priorities and strategies to prevent and end homelessness including among veterans and were tied to line items in the federal budget for the past several years. Two successful programs that have been receiving funding to help prevent and end homelessness among veterans were the HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program and the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program.

The HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) program “combines Housing Choice Voucher (HCV) rental assistance for homeless Veterans with case management and clinical services provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). VA provides these services for participating Veterans at VA medical centers (VAMCs) and community-based outreach clinics.”[4]

The Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) Program provides “a broad range of services to very low-income Veteran families residing in or transitioning to permanent housing. These services may include outreach; case management; assistance obtaining VA and other benefits; and temporary payments for rent, moving expenses, child care, transportation and other costs associated with helping Veteran families stay in or acquire permanent, stable housing.”[5]

Next Steps

Knowing why some CoCs answered “yes” when asked—“Does the CoC have sufficient resources to ensure each Veteran is assisted to quickly move into permanent housing using a Housing First approach?—and why some answered “no” would help answer the immediate questions that comes to mind after reading the results noted above.

Often CoCs struggle to find both available units and rental subsidies for the units for persons who are homeless. However, because of the increasing number of HUD-VASH and SSVF programs rental subsidies are often readily available for homeless veterans. Therefore, available units may be why some CoCs answered “no” regarding sufficient resources for homeless veterans and not rental subsidies.

If these questions are included in the 2019 CoC Program application, asking each CoC to note why they said “yes” or “no” may help us get closer to finishing the job of ending homelessness among veterans in the United States.

[1] California consists of 43 CoCs but three did not submit a CoC Program application to HUD in 2017 and 2018. The Alpine, Inyo, Mono Counties CoC did not submit an application in 2017 but did in 2018 and stated “yes” to the first two questions in Table 2 and “no” to the third question.

[2] HUD noted the following in the 2017 and 2018 Continuum of Care Program applications: Use a Housing First approach. Housing First prioritizes rapid placement and stabilization in permanent housing and does not have service participation requirements or preconditions. CoC Program funded projects should help individuals and families move quickly into permanent housing, and the CoC should measure and help projects reduce the length of time people experience homelessness. Additionally, CoCs should engage landlords and property owners, remove barriers to entry, and adopt client-centered service methods.

[3]https://www.usich.gov/resources/uploads/asset_library/USICH_OpeningDoors_Amendment2015_FINAL.pdf.

[4] See https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/public_indian_housing/programs/hcv/vash.

[5] See https://www.va.gov/HOMELESS/ssvf/docs/SSVF_2018_Grant_Award_FAQs_91417.pdf.

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