Are You Ending Veteran Homelessness? The NOFA Wants to Know.

This post is the fourth in a series examining the Department of Housing and Urban Development's recently released Notice of Funding Availability for the Fiscal Year 2015 Continuum of Care Competition. You can find the full series here: FY 2015 CoC NOFA.

As you have probably figured out, the CoC NOFA is very different this year. HUD has created the most competitive application process for CoC funds we have ever seen, with a strong emphasis on evaluating project and system performance and reallocating funds to effective programs that actually reduce homelessness.

The NOFA also focuses on the goals articulated in Opening Doors, including an end to veteran homelessness by the end of 2015. For the first time, the NOFA requires CoCs to report their actual progress toward this important goal. The exciting news is that we know this achievement is within reach for many CoCs across the country. Several communities have already announced that they have succeeded.

How will HUD score communities on their progress toward ending veteran homelessness? According to the NOFA, HUD will award up to 15 points to CoCs that can show real results on this goal. Here is how this breaks down in the application and some tips to ensure progress in the coming year.

Did your numbers go down? The best way to show that you are making progress is by reducing the number of veterans experiencing homelessness in your community.

  • 7 points will go to CoCs that demonstrate the total number of homeless veterans in the CoC has decreased, as reported in the 2015 Point-in-Time (PIT) Count compared to 2014 (or 2013, if an unsheltered count was not conducted in 2014).
  • 3 points will go to CoCs that demonstrate a 75 percent reduction in the total number of homeless veterans as reported in the 2015 PIT Count, compared to 2010 (or 2009, if an unsheltered count was not conducted in 2010).

Tip: You must report your PIT numbers in your application. But keep in mind that, if you really want to understand your system’s data and use it to drive your planning, as well as have a comprehensive response about your strategy, you should compile a master list of homeless veterans.

Communities like New Orleans that have made significant reductions in homelessness have compiled a master list of every homeless veteran by name. Stakeholders meet weekly and sometimes daily to keep track of who is on it, to better understand how people move in and out of their system, and to know whether their community is housing everyone as rapidly as possible.

Does your community quickly connect veterans to permanent housing? In response to the federal goal for ending veteran homelessness, communities have seen a significant and unprecedented surge in permanent housing resources for veterans.

But these resources are effective only when the community has a system in place that can quickly connect veterans to these resources in an intentional, well-coordinated way. That’s why the NOFA asks for a description of your CoC’s strategy for identifying and assessing veterans who are eligible for VA services and then referring them to appropriate resources such as Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF) and HUD Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program (HUD-VASH) as well as your CoC’s process for housing veterans that may not be eligible for VA resources

Tip: Engaging and active outreach to veterans, intense coordination between the CoC, the local VA, SSVF, HUD-VASH, and other VA programs, and the use of a coordinated entry system that includes all VA and CoC programs is critical to making this happen.

Do you prioritize CoC resources for veterans? HUD awards 3 points to CoCs that prioritize CoC resources for veterans who are not eligible for VA programs or services. To house every veteran in 2015, CoCs may have to prioritize some of their resources for veterans who are not already eligible for VA-funded housing and services such as HUD-VASH and Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF).

Tip: To accomplish this, establish a community-wide prioritization that adds a preference or points to a veteran’s standardized assessment score during coordinated entry to fast-track the veteran for CoC-funded housing and services.

Do you count every homeless veteran in your community? If you plan on conducting a sheltered AND unsheltered PIT Count in 2016 to assess your community’s progress (even though the unsheltered count is not required) you will get 2 points on your application.

It is also important to remember that veterans in Grant Per Diem, transitional housing, and emergency shelter and other temporary beds will be included in your sheltered homeless count. So, even if you don’t include put them on your master list, any veteran who is not in permanent housing will be counted as homeless in the PIT.

Tip: Plan your PIT unsheltered count early and be sure to include the VA and SSVF outreach workers in your community who could be enormously helpful in identifying veterans.

Communities that have reached a functional zero for veteran homelessness have shown that Housing First interventions like rapid re-housing (SSVF), permanent supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) and low-barrier, re-tooled crisis housing programs are critical. Not only do they successfully end homelessness for a wide range of veterans and their families; they effectively meet the needs of those who struggle with numerous tenancy barriers and high vulnerability.

These interventions are just as integral to efforts to end homelessness for other populations. It’s likely your CoC currently lacks the rapid re-housing and permanent supportive housing capacity to meet the needs of other populations. This CoC program competition presents an opportunity to reallocate funding to high-performing programs and apply for new funds to build that capacity.

Given all the new resources made available for veterans in recent years and the extraordinary work that we see happening across the country on this effort, we are certain that many communities will have impressive progress to report in their applications this year.